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Head Coach: How many bias' does it take to make a truth?

By By Lane Johnson
Aug. 30, 2012 at 3:30 a.m.


My wife and I were having a discussion the other day. Well, actually it was somewhat of an argument. Not a bad argument. More of a playful bantering. But the dissonance was left unresolved. So I'm going to share the issue in the hopes that some of you will weigh in and settle this thing.

We were having a leisurely dinner at a quaint pub and grill in South Austin. The evening was cooling and we were seated on an outside deck watching the sun go down. The building adjacent was a Half Price Books. We decided to play a little game by watching people walk into the bookstore and try to guess what kind of books they would buy based on their general appearance and the way they walked.

You might say we were profiling. But, since we weren't making any decisions that would effect anyone one way or another, I'm thinking it was harmless enough. Although I must admit it felt like some kind of ironic justice when a patrol car drove up and a policeman strolled into the bookstore. We were all over that profile.

It was a fun game. We chuckled and laughed at the unlimited possibilities as people came and went carrying books they had purchased. But our creative little montage of interpretive observations turned to an argument when my wife observed that some of the people coming out of the bookstore were only carrying one book.

"How can anyone go to a bookstore, especially a half-priced bookstore and buy only one book," she questioned.

I suggested that maybe they are being frugal. Or they know exactly what they are looking for and are content with that. They are exercising control which happens to be maturity. Maybe they are buying a book for a friend.

I concluded my expose' on possibilities by saying, "There are any number of perfectly good reasons why someone might purchase just one book."

"Nonsense." She argued. "There is only one reason. Anyone who goes into a perfectly good bookstore and comes out with only one book is simply not well."

After wiping away the beverage I sprayed all over myself I quickly pointed out that her opinion was somewhat judgmental. She claimed it couldn't be judgmental because it wasn't an opinion.

"What is it if it's not an opinion?" I asked.

"It's truth," she exclaimed. "The truth is that there is something wrong with anyone who buys only one book."

I pointed out that there is a difference between truth and a strong bias. Bias is a preference or prejudice toward something without regard for objective facts. Truth, on the other hand, is something so obviously clear that it hardly needs to be stated.

"Well," she said. "It's pretty obviously clear that anyone who buys only one book is not well. I'm surprised it even has to be stated."

"Obvious to whom?" I questioned.

Without waiting for the answer I could see forming on her lips I quickly went on to explain that if something is obvious to just one or two people it doesn't necessarily make it truth. The obvious, if limited to only one person, is really a bias and not a truth.

"Your statement, Sweetheart, is a biased opinion and not truth."

About that time the police officer who earlier walked into to bookstore came out. He was carrying one book. My wife smiled.

"What?" I asked.

We bantered for several hours after that. Playfully, of course. But we raised some interesting questions. What's the difference between a bias and truth? How many biases does it take before something becomes clearly a truth? Is truth nothing more than a strong bias? How do we determine the difference? I'm hoping you will have some fun with these questions.

As we left the pub I decided to make a point. I went into the bookstore and purchased one book. As I got into the car, my wife looked at the one book, then up at me and said, "I rest my case."

Lane Johnson, M.Div., LPC, is a licensed counselor. He welcomes your comments. You can contact him by email at lane@StrategicConnectionGroup.com.

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