For about a year I had a sticky note on the corner of my computer screen with three words, “Fundamental Attribution Error.” Fundamental Attribution Error is a term from psychology. It’s the tendency to over-attribute personality as an explanation when someone else does something wrong, and under-attribute situational explanations. Of course, we do the opposite when we ourselves do something bad. For example, if someone else cuts me off when I am trying to exit the highway, he is a jerk. When I cut someone off, I’m in a big hurry. It’s an emergency! If someone else is short with me, she is rude. If I am short with someone, I’m tired; it’s been a long day.
The Fundamental Attribution Error is habit-forming. The mom of three who is applying for food stamps is “always looking for a handout,” but I wonder what I would say about myself if I were that mom. Most likely it would be a much more complicated and generous answer. I missed a lot of school taking care of my younger siblings and didn’t graduate. The love of my life died and left me with three kids. I had two jobs, but I missed a rent payment and got evicted. Being homeless with kids made it hard to get to work on time, so I lost one of the jobs….
Fundamental Attribution Error makes it comfortable to judge others, but this Scripture makes it clear that judging others is dangerous for our own souls.
How does Fundamental Attribution Error and other forms of judging others apply to you?
God, open my mind to see that other people’s lives are just as complicated as my own. Help me respond to others the way I would want them to respond to me—with compassion and understanding. Amen.