Being subjective vs objective

Are you subjective or objective? How can we be more objective?

I think what Elizabeth Thornton has offered in her book, “The Objective Leader”, has offered us insightful descriptions and comparisons of subjectivity and objectivity:

“Leadership effectiveness is measured by our ability to achieve results. We analyze the situation, make a decision, take action, and hope for the desired result. Our results are determined by the actions we take. Our actions are determined by the decisions we make. Our decisions are based on what we think or believe about the situation. The challenge for leaders is that it is quite natural for us to perceive and respond to everything we experience through the lens of our mental models. These mental models are our deep-rooted ideas, assumptions, and biases about the way the world works and how things ought to be. When we encounter a person, situation or event, we instantly project our mental models, which are often based on our backgrounds, past experiences, and fears. The end result is that we often perceive, judge, and respond to people, circumstances, and events incorrectly, and we fail to achieve our intended result. Our ability to evaluate situations, make decisions, and take effective action is directly related to our ability to be objective – to perceive and respond to things as they really are…I do not believe we, as humans, can be 100 percent objective…The good news is that we can challenge our underlying assumptions and the way we frame our world in order to reduce our subjectivity and respond more objectively to what actually is….When we can ask ourselves about other possible ways of looking at a situation, we are being objective. When we can understand and consider another person’s point of view, we are being objective. When we can identify and evaluate assumptions and conclusions other than our own, we are being objective. When we can put our past experience behind us, use it only as a data point but evaluate situations in the present, we are being objective. Therefore, our working definition of objectivity is seeing and accepting things as they are without projecting our fears, mental models, and past experience, and responding thoughtfully and deliberately to the people, circumstances, and events in our lives”.

Although this book is for leaders, Thornton’s insights on subjectivity and objectivity are applicable to everyone. In my own reflection, I realize how subjective I have been according to Thronton. At the same time, I am inspired and encouraged by Thornton that we can be more objective.



“身爲現代人,你是否曾經這麽驚嘆過: ‘看! 好美的夕陽啊!’ 夕陽西下這是每天都有的事情,爲什麽會讓你這麽興奮呢? 或許就是因爲一直在追求不簡單的生活,而忽略了‘身邊單純的美好’。”




Cause and effect, for you, what’s the Bible?

The way we read the Bible affects the way we see the world. In his book, “The Bible Tells Me So”, Peter Enns tells us

“The Bible isn’t a cookbook…not an owner’s manual…not a legal contract…not a manual of assembly…When we open the Bible and read it, we are eavesdropping on an ancient spiritual journey. That journey was recorded over a thousand-year span of time, by different writers, with different personalities, at different times, under different circumstances, and for different reasons. In the Bible, we read of encounters with God by ancient peoples, in their times and places, asking their questions, and expressed in languages and ideas familiar to them. Those encounters with God were, I believe, genuine, authentic, and real. But they were also ancient – and that explains why the Bible behaves the way it does. This kind of Bible – the Bible we have – just doesn’t work well as point-by-point exhaustive and timelessly binding list of instructions about God and the life of faith. But it does work as a model for our own spiritual journey. An inspired model, in fact.”

If we read the Bible as a cookbook, manual, and legal contract, then we may insist: 1) the earth is young, and human history is about 6000 years; 2) genocide is God’s command; 3) God is fine with slavery, and discrimination against different genders & races; and …

If we read the Bible as our model, then we will continue the spiritual journey and “recognize something of ourselves in the struggles, joys, triumphs, confusions, and despairs expressed by the biblical writers”.


生活中的困難誰都會遇到,不同的是如何回應困難。 我以爲Jack Kornfield 在“踏上心靈幽徑” (A Path With Heart) 這本書裏所指出的值得深思和推薦:

“困難有兩種:一種顯然是需要解決的問題,這種情境需要慈悲的行動和直接的回應;但大部分問題是自己製造的,因爲想努力改變生命的原貌,或是過於陷入自己的觀點,而失去更廣大、更有智慧的視野。 我們常認爲困難是自身之外的環境造成的,但富蘭克林很瞭解這一點,他說:‘我們有限的視野、希望與害怕,成爲我們衡量生活的標準,環境不符合我們的想法時,就變成困難。’。。。困難發生時,我們就把挫折感投射到外在的事物上,例如下雨、孩子們,外在世界似乎是我們不舒服的來源。 我們以爲若能改變世界,就會得到快樂。 然而,我們并非通過搬石頭來找到快樂和覺醒,而是要轉化我們和它們的關係。。。西藏佛教傳統指導初學者必須修持的法門叫做’將困難帶入修行的道路’,包括有意識地將我們不想要的苦難、生活中的哀傷、内心和外在的掙扎,變成滋養耐心和慈悲心的養料,由此發展更大的自由和真實佛性。。。”

我們不能掌控外在的世界,卻能改變内在的世界(其實就是修行),並轉化我們對臨到我們生命的人事的理解和回應。 這樣的轉化和回應使我們對人生有更深刻真實的認知,也即是“更大的自由和真實佛性”。 如果實這樣,作爲牧師的我,也認同“人人皆有佛性”這句話。


在大部分人如何溝通對話的書籍和甚至訓練裏,我們都被教導要有“同理心 ”; 我們先要聆聽、澄清,並以我們對人的理解來分析和作出回應。 但是,問題是我們那不足夠時間的聼和理出來通常都是“推測” 而已, 正如,Buster Benson 在他的書 “意見不同:還是可以好好說” (why are we yelling? the art of productive disagreement)裏所指出的,“我們推測他人、他人的觀點,以及他人之理由的能力薄弱”。

在這書裏,Buster 進一步指出:

“當人們停止從自己的角度説話,試圖推測他人觀點時,事情會以多快的速度偏離軌道。。。忘記哪些部分是我們世界上得到的,哪些部分又是我們自己拼凑出來的。 當別人與我們意見相左時,我們很難妥善陳述他人的觀點。 我們過於簡化其論述,誇張其缺點,並用刻板印象填補空白。 解決這種局限的方法很簡單:我們的責任是只代表自己,並且邀請其他人為自己發言。”

其實,越花時間聆聽,就會發現我們並不完全理解。 所以,我們不能代替他人説話。回過頭來説,哪裏有人完全明白我們自己呢? 這不也就是“同理心”嗎?