The focusing illusion is psychological phenomenon that comes from the world of surveys and statistics. Put simply, the order of the questions that you ask shapes the answers. For instance, a group of college students were asked two questions, in this order: How happy are you? How often did you go on dates. There was no observable correlation between the frequency of dating and the degree of happiness reported. However, when they asked the questions in the reverse order, making the students first focus on how often they were going on dates, there was a higher correlation between the answer to the two questions. The order of the questions changed the answers (Batterson, Primal).
We Christians in America tend to ask two questions. We ask first what we want to accomplish with our lives: our work, our family, our homes, our playtime. Then we ask what Jesus’ death on the cross means to us: salvation, heaven, forgiveness. But I wonder how much our answer to the second question would change if we asked it first, if it weren’t already so anchored in our life plans that it were free to make its own, independent demands on our lives.
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I am reading a book that in some ways is addressing the same issue. Identifying who we are and how we are in relationship to God and how that will open us up to a more tolerant view of the world, than when we first identify with being a WASP American who happens to have a relationship with God. He discusses many of Jesus’ saying and parables differently than they have been presented to me in the past. The book is “THE KINGDOM WITHIN, The Inner Meaning of Jesus’ Sayings”. No earthly book is perfect, but I enjoy the challenge of his thinking. Aloha, Lee