intentional or accidental? whose fault is it anyway?

The following is an extract from my daily reading “UCB Word for Today”.

“We all suffer from something psychologists call ‘fundamental attribution error.’ It works like this: if something good happens in my life, I tend to explain it by taking credit for it. But if I fail, I explain it by blaming my circumstances. If I do well on a test I think it’s because I’m smart; if I do poorly, it’s because I was distracted. If people like my sermon it’s because I’m a good preacher; if they don’t, it’s because they’re too shallow. What makes the fundamental attribution error even worse is the way we explain the behaviour of other people.

While explaining our own bad behaviour in terms of mitigating circumstances, we say other people’s bad behaviour would exhaust the patience of Job. If I get a speeding ticket, it’s because the police needed to fill their quota so they set up a trap when they should have been out catching criminals. If you get a speeding ticket, it shows you’re not qualified to be behind the wheel. What’s the solution to the fundamental attribution error? The way of grace and repentance. We need God’s help to see the truth about ourselves. And He gives it to us in three ways: a) Through prayer b) Through reading and applying His Word c) Through people who love and know us well; people who don’t tell us what we want to hear but what we need to hear.”

How Fundamental Attribution Error Works

So what does that mean to a missionary or expat? We could add. If we have a problem with communication, it is because the Hungarians in this area don’t speak English, not because we don’t speak Hungarian well. If we didn’t understand it, then we blame someone for muttering. We rarely own up to not listening well. We have a bad case of ‘FAES’ the “Fundamental Attribution Error Syndrome”.

The same thing is also true of our relationship with each other. It is so easy to fall into the trap of judging ourselves by our intentions and our spouse by their actions. If I don’t do something, it is because I am exhausted. If they don’t do something, it is because they are lazy. It’s a good idea to look periodically in the mirror – and wear our glasses! Let’s not fall into the “fundamental attribution error” trap.

Matthew 7:2-4 (New International Version)

For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

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