The roots of misconception

Think about all of the tall tales you were told as a child; that touching a toad would give you warts; that lightning never strikes twice; that going out into the cold will give you a cold.

We all have an image of George Washington walking around with wooden teeth, like a walking lumberyard. But the truth of the matter is that his dentures were made out of ivory, lead, gold and even a little donkey tooth.

We’ve all heard the great Chicago fire of 1871 was caused by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicking over a lamp. 

However, it

Misconception was a newspaper writer who invented the story to make colorful copy and sell some newspapers in the wake of a terrible fire. George Washington Carver didn’t invent peanut butter. Thomas Crapper didn’t invent the flush toilet. Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile.

Somewhere in the recesses of our minds we still believe many of these stories – these misconceptions. For some reason I thought a Twinkie had an indefinite shelf life, especially since the label was full of full of unpronounceable ingredients. I thought the snack would last forever. That’s why when I bought the last box of Twinkies off the shelf before their bankruptcy, I was confident I could snack indefinitely. Unfortunately, six months later, it was little more than a stale, inedible cake.

Like you, the movie Jaws probably rattled you. But did you know there have been just 152 reported Shark fatalities since records began in 1580? By comparison, there have been twice as many deaths from alligators in the U.S. than by sharks. Meanwhile, dogs are responsible for more than 200 human fatalities. And bees are responsible for 500 deaths worldwide on average every year.

See where misconception can lead us?

The lack of understanding has led bitter divisions of people groups, neighborhood feuds, wars, divorce, and even loss of life.

Companies have misconceptions about what motivates their employees.  Why won’t they do what we want them to? 

Couples have misconceptions about each other. Why doesn’t he understand? Why won’t she listen?

We have misconceptions about God. He is punishing me. Why doesn’t he care?

Misconception about faith is driving the gay debate right..and a host of other issues. It’s easy to slip the word “hate” into an argument and that changes the entire trajectory.

So, I’m interested. What are the misconceptions in your life? Have you recently learned something different about a long-held belief? Does someone have a misconception about you?


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  • yeah. People had the misconception I was tall, smart and good-looking. I’m tall. :) Good post David. Enjoyed reading it and need to be aware of my misconceptions.

  • Now you’ve got me craving a Twinkie. ;-)

    Breaking apart misconceptions is SUCH an important issue. On all levels of relationships. A problem I have with misconceptions is once I “see the light” myself, I become impatient with others who are still in the dark (all per my opinion, of course). Such a crippling attitude on my part and one I need the Lord’s help with continually.

  • Misconceptions…yes…so so many…

    Well, of course you know one of my frequent messages is regarding misconceptions within our church culture of God’s heart of redemption toward His children who have experienced divorce or who are enslaved in a covenant of abusive bondage.

    I am currently reading (for the second time) Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “David and Goliath,” in which he talks of our misconceptions of advantages and disadvantages. He provides some pretty eye-opening examples of where we often get it wrong.

    It’s got me thinking about my 12-yr-old ADHD child…praying for wisdom to see how and where the ADHD is a strength that can be turned to his advantage in life rather than seeing it as a disadvantage that must be overcome.

  • Here’s a misconception I seen a lot lately, people who think that if you speak Russian then you want to be part of Russia. That’s like saying if you speak English then you want to be part of England!

  • One misconception is because we are “missionaries” we are spiritual mature or that we have more faith then the normal Christian.

    I just had a misconception busted recently concerning how I thought my husband thought about an issue. So totally wrong…and yes I did tell him I was wrong. Good practical post David…about something we all deal with.

  • George Washington Carver didn’t invent peanut butter? I was just fine being dumb and happy!

    The world is awash of misconceptions everyday. The biggest problem I think starts with the original sin of selfishness, and the lack of seeking first to be understood, instead of seeking to understand.

    Good one, David. This will continue to make me ponder this subject for a while.

    • WE are so gullible. Just look at the news every single day. The stuff we believe!