Self-Serving Beliefs


…are at the core of what is dividing us.

Just where should we start in finding and defending our beliefs? Should we, 1. Start with what we currently believe and find facts and use logic that supports those beliefs, or 2. Start with facts and use non-agenda-driven logic to determine what we believe?

The first is seductively easy and leads to nothing but division and conflict. And no worthwhile results. The second is harder, and leads to meaningful results including personal growth and stronger, more fair and more successful local communities and the world around us. How’s that for worthwhile results?

It’s time to pick. You. Me. Everyone.

All of us who want to make a positive difference in our families, communities, and our nation need to make choice 2., “Start with facts and use non-agenda-driven logic to determine what we believe.”

The default choice is starting with what we believe, being certain that we are correct. After all, we don’t challenge our own beliefs because we know they are true. Right? If anyone challenges our certainty, then we start looking for something that looks like it might be evidence to support our beliefs. And anything that props up our preconceived notions suddenly looks like evidence. If it is something that we want to believe, then it is, by our definition, true. This “definition” is clearly circular: In our eagerness to support our unexamined beliefs, we accept as fact anything that makes us feel good about our beliefs.

Instead of researching facts and other evidence in order to shape our beliefs based on what is real and true, we define reality and truth as being those things that support our beliefs.

If we are too lazy or sufficiently unconcerned to make even a cursory look around for supporting facts, then we just toss out an insult or two. “Dumbass” seems to have found favor with some. “Libtard”, “Trumpkin” or, for those with educations past the fourth grade, “Voldemort votes Republican” and “Emailgate” are popular. But empty.

But worse than being empty, the people using insults instead of discussion actually believe they are making an intelligent argument. And if their insults are “better” than the ones used on them, they declare victory. Or better yet, the other person, perhaps frustrated or disgusted by the tone of the conversation, simply quits. Then the insulter feels that he or she has actually won. “Game over” in their mind.

Remember grade school? This was the type of reasoning and argumentative tactics we used with our peers, and often our parents and teachers “back in the day”. Increasingly, we are using the same (il)logic and debate tactics to shape our personal beliefs, determine which people and groups we wish to be associated with, and, fatally, to shape our society and to determine how we are governed. And we all know that grade school thinking applied to families, communities and nations, must end disastrously. That process has clearly started. Fortunately, this disaster-in-the-making can be be turned around and corrected. But we are running out of time.

It’s time to pick. You. Me. Everyone.

And we’re not picking a debate style: We are picking nothing less than how we want to interact with the world around us, and what results we seek. Do we want to be combative, using flimsy facts and ill-chosen putdowns to give ourselves a drug-like sense of triumph? Or do we want to listen and be listened to and learn while we educate? Don’t we want to  be respected, even if not agreed with, while at the same time encouraging others to present their differing thoughts and opinions in an honest and logical manner? In other words, do we want to stay in grade school, or act like adults should act? (No, that really is the choice we face.) And it is just as binary as I am portraying it.

This is a choice that we can all make instantly and forever. Like many choices, making the right one is easy. Sticking with it is hard. You know, like a diet or exercise program: Easy to make the decision, hard to keep at it. And I would argue that making–and keeping with–this decision has far greater, lasting consequences than diet and exercise. Will you commit with me? And if we all commit, and fall off the wagon from time-to-time, let’s help each other get back on. It’s important. Vital, actually.

Let me know if you’re in.

Will Luden, writing from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.

Will Luden
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