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Backfire is the tendency we have to harden our position when faced with “new and provable facts” that threaten our preconceived or well-established beliefs. Our beliefs end up driving which facts we accept or reject. The more salient (important) an issue is to us, the more prone we are to backfire. No one is exempt: we are all prone to this effect.

As detailed in the last post, the frustration is that there is often no “intersection point” of mutual agreement between people who hold polar-opposite viewpoints on a subject. Further, the plethora of emerging facts combined with the more flexible acceptance of opinion and theory as fact make it difficult to find a secure truth to trust. We resort to simply believing what we believe. It’s easier than facing the cognitive dissonance associated with having our beliefs challenged.

The trouble for Christians is that we want nice, clean, back-and-white answers. We are taught that “our witness” is critical and that an effective witness brings others to our belief. Yet in practice, we so often find the opposite occurring. For all that we are prone to backfire ourselves, we produce a lot of backfire in others. Our involvement in side or ancillary issues ends up producing a lot of this backfire in others.

The net impact is that people harden their position in our presence. Not to be outdone, we often harden our position when in the presence of those who hold to different beliefs. To avoid (or rather, manage) backfire, it requires a depth of emotional intelligence. More importantly, it requires spiritual wisdom. In my next post, we will consider why so much backfire arises between the LGBT+ and evangelical communities.

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