Friday, 19 November 2010

Fundamental Attribution Error

Okay, he’s lost it now. What on earth is a “fundamental attribution error” and what could that conceivably have to do with marriage?   

Dr. Lee Ross
If you have read this far, I’m ahead of the game. Stanford psychologist Lee Ross coined the term that basically means “we err in our inclination to attribute people’s behavior to the way they are rather than to the situation they are in.” Marriage therapist Michele Weiner-Davis said, “Most people attribute their marital problems to some deeply engrained personality characteristics of their spouse.” She then goes on to cite an example of a wife who might say, “My husband is a stubborn person.” The reality is this husband’s stubbornness surfaces only when they talk about a new approach to parenting while in most other contexts he appears to be willing to discuss new ideas and make changes. Mr. Ross’ point is that often our behavior is determined by the situation we are in, not necessarily indicative of who we are as a person.

According to Mr. Ross’ theory I would suspect that If you found yourself in a very unhappy marriage then your behavior might reflect your dissatisfaction. Psychologically speaking that may explain your mood and how you behave. However the rationale doesn’t excuse the behavior any more than it excuses the husband’s behavior for his stubbornness. And God might suggest that you stay after school and write out Ephesians 5:21-33 one hundred times and then put it into practice.


Michelle Weiner-Davis

From God’s perspective I doubt that our circumstances are ever a legitimate reason for violating His Word. Ephesians doesn’t say husbands love your wives unless they are having a bad hair day in which case it is alright to respond in kind.

Nor does it say, wives respect your husband unless he throws his clothes on the floor in which case treat him like the obvious slob he has become.

As Christians we should be quick to show grace. As “new creations” we have the ability to make choices, so our situation is never a justification for a behavior that would not be glorifying to God.    

Bad Hair Day


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