First Words

A faith that looks to the future

Ever since the women at the tomb learned that Jesus was “going ahead,” we’ve been trying to catch up.

Looking back at one’s high school yearbook is an amusing exercise. Seeing the dated hairstyles, the gawky kids in science club photos, and the barely-out-of-college teachers who seemed like sages at the time remind us how much we’ve changed. The personal notes penned by classmates suggest that many felt they were at the top of the world. Twelve years of schooling had refined our personalities, values, and preferences in ways that would carry us for the rest of our lives.

Mark Twain’s famous quip, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around; but when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years,” hints at our broader difficulty of seeing ahead clearly. Most of us struggle to imagine how we will change.

Harvard psychologist Daniel T. Gilbert and two colleagues, Jordi Quoidbach and Timothy D. Wilson, discovered these tendencies through research involving more than 19,000 people (Science Magazine, January 2013). Their work reveals that people of all ages grossly underestimate the extent to which they will change in the future. They end up believing that “who they are today is pretty much who they will be tomorrow, despite the fact that it isn’t who they were yesterday.” Even though we know we have changed a lot in the past, we don’t expect to change in the future.