Creeping Determinism

“[Psycologist Baruch] Fischoff calls this phenomenon ‘creeping determinism’ — the sense that grows on us, in retrospect, that what has happened was actually inevitable — and the chief effect of creeping determinism, he points out, is that it turns unexpected events into expected events.” Malcolm Gladwell, What the Dog Saw

The idea of creeping determinism explains the expression “hindsight is 20/20.” When we look back on events, it always seems so obvious that things would turn out the way they did. But that is only because we have had the chance to connect the dots in a way that is unnatural and impossible when we are in the moment.

If you are like me, you often kick yourself for making stupid decisions after you have looked back to see the big picture of how things turned out. (Why did I buy a house before the market completely dropped; why did I not choose to take advantage of some other opportunity; etc). And while we may want to challenge ourselves with the idea that next time we won’t make the same kind of mistake, the reality is that we probably will.

But it also reminds me that we need to live each moment to the full, inviting God’s Spirit to be the driving force of what we are doing, and stop worrying about how things will ultimately turn out. The critics will always look back and analyze the mistakes made, but the real action is living in the moment, accepting its inherent limitations, and being one of the people affecting the future. We can choose to shape our kingdoms, the things that we have influence and control over, to build the Kingdom of God, even if we can’t foresee what that will look like in the future.

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Jeremy Jernigan

This is the personal blog of Jeremy Jernigan husband, father, executive pastor, and student of truth

1 Comment


about 2 years ago

Very concise piece.. I tell people that we have the hindsight advantage when we study the word of God but that doesn't mean we overlook the "simple" challenges that made the fathers of faith fall at certain time. For instance Abraham fell for sarah's "practical" suggestion to have children with haggi.. Or Adam's complacent nature to succumb to Eve's offer of the forbidden fruit..


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