Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Optimism, Resilience, and a WYSIATI bias, meet the Holy Spirit’s enabling.

Written by: on February 29, 2024

A few weeks ago, in my post related to Tim Harford’s cautions around data, I made the connection to my mode of making fast connections, even being duped by data that supports pre-conceived theories [1]. This week, with my encounter with Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow”, I was drawn back to a similar caution.

For instance, I am currently involved in the venture of developing and coordinating the Canadian iteration of the Peace and Reconciliation Network. It is extraordinarily challenging, helping to support over 40 Denominations and Theological Schools and Christian Organizations to grow and strengthen in capacity as centres of reconciliation in an unreconciled world. I recognize, like most start-up businesses, this venture has a strong probability of failure, because it is a risky, complex project. But having a “super-optimistic” self [2] means I either don’t see it or don’t care, or wish to rationalize in some other ways as I commit myself to it.

Why? What is going on in my brain?

Kahneman’s research would point out that I am under some illusion that my optimism and resilience will override my own bias of “What You See is All There Is” (WYSIATI)? Are my “affect heuristic” conclusions pronounced because of my convictions, theology, and beliefs? [3] Kahneman claims that “in the context of attitudes, however, System 2 is more of an apologist for the emotions of System 1 than a critic of those emotions—an endorser rather than an enforcer” [4]. All of this suggests that I will rationalize and make choices and reasoning without identifying and understanding errors in my judgements [5].

Or to turn this around, I will say it this way. Against all odds, I would rather die to self, and operate in weakness, to allow God’s strength to shine through [6]. My brain must participate with the rest of my body and soul in to perspectives gained only from my whole self joined with the Spirit’s incredible enabling [7]. It is impossible to rationalize away the importance of reckless abandon and against-all-odds attempts at obedience when studying the dialogue between system 1 and 2 of the brain. If, as Kahneman suggests, religious belief is part of a “confirmatory bias” in System 1 [8], then it would most certainly be reckless. But if reasoned belief and is part of both Systems, well then all bets are off, or am I simply asking an easier question[9]? 


[1] Zantingh, Joel. “What Am I Looking At? OK. What Questions Does It Pose?” Accessed February 29, 2024. https://blogs.georgefox.edu/dlgp/what-am-i-looking-at-ok-what-questions-does-it-pose/.

[2] Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow. London: Penguin Books, 2012, 252, 255.

[3] Kahneman, 103.

[4] Kahneman, 103.

[5] Kahneman, 4.

[6] 2 Corinthians 12:10.

[7] “”Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,“ Ephesians‬ ‭3‬:‭20‬ ‭NIV.

[8] Kahneman, 81.

[9] Kahneman, 97.

About the Author


Joel Zantingh

Joel Zantingh serves as the Canadian Coordinator of the World Evangelical Alliance's Peace and Reconciliation Network, and as Director of Engagement with Lausanne Movement Canada. He has served in local and national roles within the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada, and led their global mission arm. He has experience teaching in formal and informal settings with Bible college students and leaders from various cultures and generations. Joel and Christie are parents to adult children, as well as grandparents. They reside in Guelph, Ont., situated on the treaty lands and territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, and home to many past, present and future First Nations peoples, including the Anishinnabe and Hodinöhsö:ni'.

13 responses to “Optimism, Resilience, and a WYSIATI bias, meet the Holy Spirit’s enabling.”

  1. Diane Tuttle says:

    Hi Joel, Thank you for your post and the challenge. How do you think complete abandonment to allow God’s strength to shine through you be manifested in your current situation?

    • For me, I have moored this to not simply who I am, but who I am with the Holy Spirit. This is where the Ephesians 2:20 “immeasurably more” seems to be active in my current situation.

      Although I am fighting off many heuristics and biases, leading me to predetermined direction for PRN in Canada, I am witness to God opening doorways of connection that I don’t deserve, revealing pieces for PRN’s framework that are more hopeful that I first thought they could be, and giving me a growing influence I am not aggressively seeking or building, but it is being given to me nonetheless. I have no earthly explanation for the against-all-odds, building of PRN in this season.

  2. Graham English says:

    Thanks for your post, Joel. I appreciate the theme of dying to self and allowing yourself to be filled with and led by the Holy Spirit. How does this practice manifest itself? What decision-making fruit has it borne in your life?

  3. mm Kari says:

    As a fellow “super-optimist,” I’m curious what things you find helpful in finding a balance between optimistic “reckless abandon” and wise, prayerfully measured decisions?

    • Adam Cheney says:

      Joel, I’ll jump in on Kari’s comment as well. Many people would have argued that when I moved my family to Kenya and left my secure job as a Fire Captain that I was leading with reckless abandon and not doing deeper system 2 thinking. They might have been right. But, I do know that the Holy Spirit had led our family in that direction. To ignore it would have been disobedient and I would have ended up in the belly of a fish. I look back and still know it was the right thing to do. God has called his people to extraordinary tasks throughout history. It often does not make sense. As you allude, maybe being more discerning and understanding the broader picture is what is needed.

  4. Daren Jaime says:

    Hey Joel! Thanks for your blog and prayers for your divine assignment this season, I am praying for you.
    In reconciliation, I can see a lot of System 1 at play. In your capacity, how can you employ people to engage both systems in such a challenging environment?

    • Daren, I too see the System 1 creep in reconciliation, but more often this is how people begin, and what prevents people from pursuing reconciliation. In the reconciliation journey, conflict transformation tools help to suspend judgement based on one’s own paradigm of lens on a given broken relationship, whether personal, communal, or systemic.

      I see some deeper level two processing involved. What are your thoughts?

      • Akwése Nkemontoh says:

        Thanks for this post Joel! I’m really curious to hear more about this new venture — it’s certainly a big task, but one I trust is not without an even bigger reward 💪🏾

        I thought I would creep in on this comment though because I too see System 2 at play here and agree that when System 1 creeps in we can’t make much progress. From my experience, the art of listening has been a key component in transforming conflict which I think requires System 2 efforting for the everyday person becuase when there’s cross talk or people are listening only to respond ( both of which I think are system 1 at play) we cant actually get much done. Thinking about this in your context I wonder what kind of base skillsets you see as vital precursors to your team being able to lead this work AND if you’ve thought about/given yourself a container of time to focus on that internal development side of things before launching out into support mode for the 40+ organizations you’ll be externally serving?

  5. Jeff Styer says:

    I’m reflecting on religious beliefs being confirmation bias. I think of hearing people say “God spared my life today,” or “God did such and such today.” When I hear that, System 2 thinking would ask was that really God or just good reactionary thinking?
    I remember reading that section of the book, but I really did not reflect on what that means for my own life. This really puts the whole concept of faith into question. Am I operating on faith or am I operating on confirmed biases?
    Thanks for a thought provoking post.

  6. Nancy Blackman says:

    Thanks for giving more information on your NPO and research. I love that part of this program — not just learning more about each person but where their hearts and passions lie.

    You asked some amazing questions about yourself. What do you think? You know yourself better than anyone else (despite what most people think).

    And, of course, one of the other questions we’ve learned is, “what if you’re wrong?”

    But what if you’re right? What if your team needs an optimist to help drive them forward?

    I say that because I am married to a man who I refer to as “the eternal optimist” and I need that to help me see the other side.

    Is it possible this book got you too much into your head and not enough into your heart?

  7. mm Shela Sullivan says:

    Hi Joel,
    Thank you for your post.
    I am curious, how can one reconcile the tension between making rational choices and embracing vulnerability in decision-making processes, particularly in the context of religious beliefs?

  8. Elysse Burns says:

    Hi Joel, thank you for taking on this important work of peace and reconciliation. Yesterday, I had the privilege of participating at a student event at the University here. The students presented many topics and social harmony kept coming up in the presentations. However, nothing was mentioned about peace and reconciliation; something I believe could greatly benefit this country.

    I saw in your response to Daren that System 1 creeps into reconciliation. What does that usually look like?

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