I was having a conversation with someone the other day about a health related topic, a subject I have invested a lot of time in researching. In fact, I’m going to Texas this weekend for a 3-day conference that has the title The Truth About Cancer. As a survivor, I want to learn as much as I can about the subject.
Anyway, I was sharing my thoughts with this person and was surprised, when I got done, to find out that they were quite offended by my comments. Apparently, my “beliefs” about the subject didn’t align with their “beliefs” about the subject and they evidently felt like I was trying to impose mine on them. Since I’m sure that this has happened to you one time or another, let’s look into the nature of “beliefs.”
The definition of a “belief”: A thought or idea that you repeat to yourself over and over again because you think it’s the truth. With that definition, I’m sure you’re clear there are many things you believe. Beliefs are neither good nor bad and, in fact, it’s often a good thing to have beliefs. For example, it surely is good to believe that it’s not right to attack or harm another human being. And believing that you have to pay your bills and taxes will keep you out of jail.
But the “problem” with beliefs is that when a human being says: “I believe …” what’s left out but implied is the statement: “ … so it must therefore be the truth.”
What I’m saying is that people equate their beliefs with “the truth” and that’s where we get ourselves into a lot of trouble. Why? Because none of your beliefs are “the truth.” They are just your beliefs. And to make matters worse, you didn’t decide the vast majority of things you believe. You were born into a world that had an already given set of beliefs and you bought into them hook, line and sinker, without much thought at all.
And there are an amazing number of things we believe that have absolutely been proven not to be the truth. Heck, we used to believe the earth was flat and that if you tried to run a mile in 4 minutes or less, your heart would explode.
Take success for example: we believe that hard work, getting a good education, being lucky, being in the right place at the right time, and a lot more, will lead to success. None of that’s “the truth.”
The trick in life is to stay open. Be willing to question everything. Be willing to let go of every firmly held belief you have in favor of what you could discover in the process.
So here’s an assignment for you, if you are willing:
- Start noticing what you believe to be the “truth.” Be willing to challenge your most deeply held beliefs.
- Ask: is that the truth or just something I believe?
- If you think it’s the truth, ask: is it true ALL of the time? Do you just ignore the facts when you encounter situations which are inconsistent with your beliefs?
- Then ask: what would life be like for you if what you believe was not the truth? Or if just the opposite was the truth?
- Be willing to consider the possibility that you are living in a body of beliefs that are not only not the truth, but not even useful.
- Have fun with this and see what you can learn by letting go of your assumptions and standing in not knowing.