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Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is another element of human nature that is critical to understand when sharing the gospel.

Cognitive Dissonance is what happens when someone realizes they are holding two conflicting beliefs at the sam time.

Human nature hates cognitive dissonance. A word many christian may have heard that is very similar is “putting a rock in their shoe”.

By putting a small rock of truth in someone’s shoes, they accept that one truth you shared with them. Afterwards, the begin thinking about it more because they realize that if what you said is true, something else they believe must be false.

When people become aware of the fact they hold two conflicting core beliefs at the same time – something in their mind breaks and they suddenly only have 3 options.

  1. Accept the new belief (and often the following beliefs that it supports).
  2. Reject the new belief and reorient their worldview and morality back around the original belief.
  3. Lie to themselves about the disjunction and pretend everything is fine.

For Example: Suppose you are able to help someone see events in their own life through a new light that begins to reveal that “maybe God does love me”. You can tell during your conversation that they chose to accept that new belief.. They are then much more open to accepting follow-up beliefs that build upon the fact that God loves them.

If however, they begin to see that God loves them, but they really hate God because of what happened to them in their church, they may try to reject what they know is true. If this is the case, they will double down on the lifestyle they are living.

Lastly, if they come to the belief that God loves them but they don’t want to give up their life of partying that they themselves expressed feelings of guilt about- they may try to lie to themselves and say that there isn’t really any problem.

When sharing the gospel, your goal is not to preach a sermon, share your testimony, explain the bible, quote verses, etc. None of those tactics clearly reveals the big picture.

Your goal is to help the other person clearly understand a choice. It could be a choice between “there is no God” and “maybe there is a God.” It might be a choice between God’s anger with me” and “God cares about me.”

The way you identify their choice is by asking questions that reveal the cognitive dissonance between two things they already believe.

As you ask open-ended questions, you should be processing all the information they are giving you and trying to diagnose the core reason or belief that is keeping this person from a relationship with God.

This is very difficult to do as you begin. The more they talk, the longer you have to think about what’s not adding up.

The great news is that because Jesus truly IS GOD, anyone who doesn’t have a relationship with Him does have beliefs in their mind that run counter to what is true.

One common example of bringing out cognitive dissonance goes like this. The person you are speaking to says “I don’t believe God is real”. When you ask the reason they believe this they answer, “because of the bad thing that happened in church that one time.”

The answer that identifies their faulty logic is something like: “Wow, that sounds like that was a deeply painful experience. I’m sorry that happened. Is it okay with you if I ask a question? (They say yes.) I agree with you (you’re on their team) that there are bad people in the church and in every religion. But does one person doing something evil really prove that the entire belief system for any religion is false?

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