Humble Curiosity

Searching for truth and error.

When was the last time you were wrong about something? Has it been a few months? A few years? A few decades, even? There are things you are wrong about, right now. You have been wrong before, and you will be wrong again.

Most people believe what they hold to be true is correct—obviously, or else they wouldn’t believe it. If a particular belief of yours is the result of you changing your mind about something, you likely put some thought, prayer, or research into making that shift. It may have taken weeks or months, but through careful study or thought, you may have realized something you thought—or at least, believed—to be true was, in fact, not.

No one wants to admit they were wrong. The more important the issue, the more emphatically someone has defended a particular belief, the less likely they are willing to publicly admit their beliefs have changed. The more someone is respected or held in high esteem, the more difficult it will be for them to consider their beliefs are wrong.

For anyone who seriously considers a controversial topic, if you really want to give it a fair shake, you should ask yourself a question before you begin: “What are the costs of changing my mind?” The bias we humans suffer as a result of pride hampers our ability to honestly approach any topic, particularly ones where the private or public cost of admitting we may have been wrong is high.

Academics do this all the time—they defend an antiquated belief simply out of pride, rather than an honest pursuit of the truth. Doctors are loathe to admit vaccines may be causing neurological and autoimmune disorders, regardless of scientific data, simply because they have administered thousands of doses of them. Politicians are more reluctant to admit their economic policies failed, the more grandiose their plans were laid. Imagine someone with multiple college degrees, considered to be well-versed in scripture and theology, possibly the pastor of a very disciplined, thorough church. For someone like that, it will be extremely difficult for them to honestly reconsider an important spiritual topic. The public-facing cost of changing their mind is so high it will inevitably cloud their judgement and lower their willingness to consider an alternate view.

If the cost of changing your mind is high, seeking the truth will be much harder for you. You will have to spend more effort practicing humble curiosity. Humble curiosity involves two things. First, a natural wonder about the way in which the world works. This might involve learning about the mechanics of Creation itself, like blood-clotting or the bombardier beetle. It might require you to read some history books to gain a better understanding on the rise and fall of great nations. You might learn another language, or spend time in another country or culture. Whatever it is, cultivating a fascination with learning and knowledge is paramount to gaining wisdom and improving discernment.

With this thirst for knowledge a part of your daily life, the second component—humility—is also necessary. Humility will help preempt your natural tendency to reject any newfound understanding that might conflict with your current beliefs. For instance, if you thought all of Russia was to the west of Alaska, it would be relatively painless to learn something different—a few of the Aleutian Islands are so far westward parts of Russia lie to their east. On the other hand, if you had written academic papers asserting this same error—if you were a geopolitical authority and had spent years in newspaper articles and television interviews insisting otherwise—the price of admitting you were wrong would be much more steep. Your natural curiosity may have led you to discover an Air Force base on a little known island called Shemya, but with a lack of humility, it is likely you would close the book the moment you realized you were wrong.

There are things you are wrong about, right now. Somewhere in your carefully curated understanding of the world, of the Christian faith, of the nature of God himself—somewhere in there, you are wrong. It is foolish to believe otherwise. All of us are—and will continue to be—wrong about things. This very website is wrong on at least something, if not multiple things. For the Christian, and anyone really, the response to this reality should be the cultivation of humble curiosity. Get curious about how things work. Read books you disagree with. Learn from disciplines that seem to have little to do with the topic you are interested in.

But most of all, pray for humility. Ask God to crush your pride. To soften your heart. To help you find those things in your life where you are wrong and to be able to freely admit it to those around you. If you are not curious, you will never discover any of your errors. If you are not humble, you will never admit to them.

Make a concerted effort to cultivate humble curiosity in you and your family. Consider it an extravagant investment in wisdom and discernment that will undoubtedly benefit everyone.

Interested in Tribes?

While other denominations might send missionaries to Africa or Asia to start churches, Protarians consider helping people find their tribe—or starting a new tribe—to be our primary mission work. If you’re a Christian (of any denomination) and interested in the Biblical model for tribes, you can read “The Tribal Instinct,” available in print here or through Amazon in print, digital, and audiobook versions.

Feel free to get in touch if you’re looking to find a people and place for your family to call home—we may be able to help.

An image of the front of 'The Tribal Instinct' book. It is an off-white color with three large words (THE TRIBAL INSTINCT) in an uppercase serif font, centered and stacked on top of each other. The type is black with the exception of the word, Tribal, which is red and italicized. Underneath is the subtitle in smaller type, 'The Sacred Desire for People and Place.' On top of the title is a small primitive illustration, like a cave painting, of a man throwing a spear followed by a visibly pregnant woman.

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