Jesus Overrides Negativity Bias and Inspires a Growth Mindset

Wednesday 07 Oct 2020

From minor annoyances to major disasters, our bias towards a specific episode can change over time.

Psychology research suggests that our short-term attention is biased towards negativity while our long-term attention is biased towards positivity. When we are in the midst of grief, struggle or other difficult circumstances, in our brain’s effort to protect us from imminent harm, our negativity bias tends to kick in, warping our vision of potential long-term positive outcomes. In contrast, when we reflect on past episodes, we tend to do so positively; this is regardless of how negative we may have felt at the time. Our ability to reflect more positively is at times attributed to how reflection reveals the growth, blessings and hope that evolved through past suffering.

Living Faith students know this. Their knowledge of growth mindset assures them that struggle can lead to the most inspiring outcomes. In terms of classroom-based learning, student anxiety and discomfort (ie negativity bias) is reduced through students’ understanding that the deepest learning takes place through risk-taking, grapple, mistakes and perseverance. We aspire for our students to appreciate what is difficult.

Knowledge of growth mindset does not automatically mean that students (or, in fact, ourselves!) consistently display a growth mindset. Adopting a growth mindset is our goal, yet the reality is that difficult circumstances can eclipse even the sturdiest growth mindset and most optimistic mind.

While ‘growth mindset’ is Professor Carol Dweck’s 21st-century terminology, the concept itself is not new. About 2000 years ago in his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul wrote: ‘... we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.’

God gets our attention through difficult circumstances, as we are reminded of our dependence on him. Seemingly hopeless challenges stimulate our thirst for him; they are an invitation to draw near to him. And his response reveals his sovereignty. When suffering strikes and adversity sets in, an earnest heart of thankfulness and trust reminds us that the joy of the Lord is our strength.

There is no need to panic or run and hide from difficult circumstances – there is no need to allow our negativity bias to kick in – because God brings good out of all things. We know that suffering produces – it accomplishes, it generates, it engineers – endurance, character and hope. And with hope, we’re never left short-changed.

Living Faith is a community of Christian and non-Christian families. We are a school for all. At Living Faith we do not set out to convert non-Christians into believers; that’s the Holy Spirit’s gig. We have no desire to assess faith. We do, however, expose students to Biblical teaching that introduces them to the God of compassion and abundance, and we seek to immerse students in an environment of Christian love and forgiveness. It is our prayer that all children, regardless of their background, will aspire to learn more about Jesus and maybe even seek to be in relationship with him, knowing that hope exists through him. After all, Jesus inspires the most magnificent growth mindset.

- Jane Mueller, Principal