Your Brain Might Be Cheating You out of Miracles: A Weird Psychology Life-hack.
Did you know that all of our brains have an irrational glitch that causes us to obsess over our fear of loss more than the possibility of gain?
This might sound like a silly philosophical problem. But if you aren’t aware of this, it could have a huge impact on not only your prayer life, but your ability to experience the miracles that God has for you! In fact, I’m pretty sure I never would’ve planted Substance, had I not been aware of this flaw in my brain. But the good news is this, once you understand how to compensate for it, watch out: a supernatural life awaits you!
Years ago, research psychologists, Kahneman and Tversky noticed a strange behavior in humans:
We consistently obsess over our losses twice as much as we do our gains. As a result of this behavior, we can be tricked into all sorts of irrational behaviors. And naturally, there are entire industries that pray upon this mental flaw (like lotteries, gambling and insurance and security industries). But, it works like this:
All of life is filled with risks. And people pay huge amounts of money to avoid risk. And why? Because we remember how terribly we felt the last time we failed or got ripped off. Indeed, we remember it so much, that it can blur how we perceive our current opportunities in life.
Seth Godin, in his book “what to do when it’s your turn” reflected on this concept by saying: Imagine if you went to the bus station and walked up to the first person you met with a proposition:
“Say to him, with as much confidence and trustworthiness as you can muster, “would you like to buy this five dollar bill? I’m selling it for a dollar.” The odds are, he will walk away without buying anything. In fact, he will probably avoid eye contact and walk away rather quickly. How rude! Doesn’t he know that you’re offering him a five dollar bill for just a dollar?” (pg 60).
Now, we could easily come up with a hundred reasons why a person would be suspicious about an offer like this. But the truth is, opportunities like this come our way on a regular basis. Someone is trying to be generous to us, yet it’s hard to believe: “ I mean, what are their motives? What are they trying to get from me?” And all of a sudden our instinct takes over. “No thanks! I would rather say no to four dollars then go through the uncomfortable process of remembering how I was ripped off in the past… And then figuring out if you are doing the same to me again.”
In fact, research, psychologists Kahneman and Tversky came up with dozens of fascinating insights from experiments just like these, which are now known as “Prospect Theory” – humans will take bigger risks to “avoid loss“ then they would to experience gains. And we will happily do this, even if our decision is mathematically absurd and irrational.
So what’s going on here?
As a Christian, the Bible teaches that it’s rather simple: we are all jaded because of sin. And our minds are naturally set on the things of the flesh (Romans 8) instead of the things of the Spirit.
Indeed, only perfect love (aka. God) can cast out all fear. (1 Jn.4:18). And when we experience the kindness of God on a consistent basis, (Romans 2:4) suddenly faith starts rising up in our hearts. And in participating in this silly little process, it actually makes our minds more rational (aka, “renewed” Romans 12:2).
Unfortunately, when we are jaded and insecure, we would actually prefer losing more simply to maintain the status quo. In many ways, it’s the opposite of stewardship. Indeed, Jesus was describing this in the Parable of the Talents – the one servant thought that burying his talent was the wisest thing to do (Mt. 25:18).
Now, do we need to be suspicious of people? Of course! But the research shows: if we always “go with our gut” every time someone gives us an opportunity, we will often bet on the wrong thing, even when the evidence says otherwise.
Now, it’s unlikely that someone will randomly offer to sell you a five dollar bill for a one dollar! But the next time someone you trust invites you to be a part of an opportunity, (like joining a ministry team : ) seriously consider it!
Job offers, investment opportunities, and honestly, almost any relationship requires risk. (And if you’re an extrovert, who has ADHD, you probably take too many risks haha. Just sayin’)
But, how do we avoid this mental flaw without falling to the opposite extreme, becoming a “Yes Man.”
Well, there are two simple solutions:
(1). Let objective outsiders help you evaluate the pros and cons: “there is wisdom in many counselors.” “ if you walk with the wise, you will grow wise. But a companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Prov 13:20). One study even found that, when people negotiate a deal in a foreign language, both parties tend to be more rational instead of emotional. Ie. It’s hard to turn off our emotional instincts, and think rationally. And that’s what a good mentor will do.
(2). Never make an impulsive decision on the spot:
For example, if someone tried to sell you a five dollar bill for a dollar, yet they gave you a day to think about it (and ask questions) you are significantly more likely to make the right choice.
For example, when someone invites me to speak at their church, I never make the decision right there on the spot. “let me check my schedule and get back to you!”
Now we’ve all been given offers that say: “if you walk away, I can never offer this opportunity ever again” (said every Timeshare salesman)! Ironically, according to “Prospect Theory,” these salesmen are shooting themselves in the foot when doing this before trust and value has truly been established.
But the same is true when we are making a generous offer to other people (like the offer of eternal salvation)! When we pitch the gospel in a way that is perceived as high pressure (aka, Street evangelism) most people naturally recoil.
So when you think about it, there’s actually endless applications for Prospect Theory, when it comes to both prayer and evangelism.
But the next time someone gives you an opportunity, I want you to think about how you process it. Because if you stick to raw intuition, you just might miss out on your next divine opportunity.