It’s nearly certain that by now (May 13, 2020) you know someone who has contracted COVID-19. You’ve seen the numbers and the statistics. Millions have tested positive, tens of thousands have died – but that all happens to someone else.
The Optimism Bias causes us to believe that even though bad things happen to other people, we are somehow safe or protected from the risk for some reason. Our house would never get hit with a tornado. I’m a safe driver, I would never get into a fatal car accident. My child would never get cancer.
We underestimate the risk we face for certain negative outcomes and therefore fail to prepare or take necessary precautions – like forgetting to buckle up, or neglecting to change the batteries in our smoke detectors, or….not wearing a CDC-recommended face covering while in public during the pandemic.
I am the first to admit that we shouldn’t live our lives in fear of what could or might happen. It can be absolutely crippling to let our worry and anxiety limit our freedom. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared for negative events to catch us off guard.
Sometimes Christians can be the worst about this. Churches refused to suspend their in-person worship assemblies. Christians ranting and raving about their religious freedoms being trampled by the state due to the stay-at-home orders. I get it. We want to show that our faith is bigger than our fear. But whose responsibility is it if someone gets fatally sick after attending an ill-advised choir practice (like what happened a while back)? We should prepare. We should have plans in place and take the necessary actions to save lives. Just when we think we’re untouchable, that’s when the worst can happen.
“Whoever thinks he stands must take heed lest he fall.” God never promised us a life free from struggle or disaster or tragedy. But we are promised that his presence would go with us into the storm. Faith in God doesn’t make us immune from COVID-19 or cancer or car wrecks. “Drink a little wine for your stomach,” Paul advised a young Timothy who was struggling with digestive issues. Why? Because his ministry couldn’t continue if he didn’t take the necessary precautions.
Sometimes God calls us to lay down our lives for our faith. Sometimes God calls us to protect the weak, the innocent, the oppressed, and those most at risk.
For a quick guide to more cognitive biases, I recommend this article from Business Insider: 61 Cognitive Biases that Screw Up Everything We Do