The photograph was old and faded. It was a black and white print that had the appearance of having been taken in the 1940’s with a Brownie box camera. The photo was of a casually dressed young man sitting under a tree with his two young sons in his lap. The family dog was sitting nearby. The boys looked to be around four and seven years old. It was a happy picture. The man was proudly smiling; the boys appeared to feel safe and comfortable in the lap of their father. 

We often see pictures like this one. We see them in friends’ and relatives’ family photo albums and in local museums. They also appear in electronic and print advertisements for a wide range of products and services. When we are not personally acquainted with the individuals in the photo, we may wonder who they were and what became of them. We wonder how the family fared through the years. What did the boys grow up to do and be?

Sometimes we speculate about individuals in old photos like these. It is kind of fun to make up stories about their lives. We look at the photographs and the people in them. Based upon our own perceptions of the photographic images we may develop detailed descriptions of events in their lives. We do not like not knowing things. We like to fill in the blanks, even when we do not have enough information.

We often make very quick observations that lead to conclusions that may or not be accurate. Such decisions are called snap judgements. When these hurried observations, or snap judgements, lead to conclusions that are incorrect, we sometimes stick by our original stories because we do not like to be wrong just as we do not like not knowing things. The old photo that I described above is, like any photograph old or new, only a snapshot. The same is true with other encounters that provide very limited information. The photograph does not reveal anything other than what was happening at that instant in time. Anything else that we may suggest about the individuals in the picture is only speculation. Building compelling stories or trying to describe events that may have occurred outside that instant is just speculation. When we need to know more about a thing or an issue, we need to get more information, not just speculate. Making conclusions that are based upon insufficient information leads to inaccurate decisions. Inaccurate decisions lead to uninformed behavior.

God has equipped us with strong minds that we have employed in the defense of this nation and of the individuals whom we love. We better serve our nation and our loved ones by making certain that our behavior is based upon decisions that are drawn from informed conclusions, not from snap judgements.

In the above referenced photograph, the father was a young Southern Baptist Minister and teacher in Western Oklahoma. The older boy grew up to be a U.S.Marine and a University Professor. The younger boy grew up to be a U.S.Paratrooper who earned a Purple Heart in Vietnam, later became a Psychologist, and who is the Chaplain who wrote this column.

Peace and God Bless 

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