Believe It or Not

Overheard in a coffeehouse:

Woman:  I had all of these beliefs about what love was supposed to look like, and it took me years to get past that. I believe differently now.

Man:  But how did you change your beliefs?

Woman:  I just stopped believing them and decided to believe in something else.

The man looked shocked, as if the woman had just announced that she had woken up one day and decided to swap out her entire head for a new model.

For many of us, our beliefs seem not just integral to who we are, they appear to BE who we are:  I am a Christian, someone might say. I am a Democrat. I am a hopeless romantic.

The above aren’t who we are. They’re not even fact. They are beliefs, and beliefs can be picked up and put down, in any moment, at any given time.

Some of you may be challenged by reading this. You feel your faith is important to you, and perhaps even defines you. You may feel threatened by the suggestion that your beliefs—ANY belief–is optional.

So let’s take it to a less volatile level.  Ask a child what they believe, and you’ll get a host of fascinating answers. They believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. They believe they have the power to make their parents sick or well, or possibly, in the case of children who’ve lost a parent, the power to kill them entirely, just by being angry one day and wishing them dead. Depending on their age, children may believe that they can fly, that there are monsters under the bed, that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, that tiny people live inside the TV and make all the shows.

They believe these beliefs as fervently as you believe yours. Are they “wrong?” In the context of what they know and what works for them? Nnot really. They, like all of us, choose their beliefs based upon observation, their imagination, their past experiences, and, most importantly, based on what serves them. Most of them will eventually replace these beliefs with different ones. And they won’t think a thing of it.

So why do we grown-ups feel all wobbly and even angry at the thought of questioning our beliefs, no matter how gently? A belief is simply a story. It may or may not be factually, observably true. And whether or not it’s universally true isn’t really the point, anyway.

Here’s where the real gold is:

What do you believe about yourself, about others, about life, about the world?

Does it serve you to hold those beliefs?

If it doesn’t, isn’t it worth questioning those beliefs that aren’t working and considering finding different beliefs that do?

Henry Ford, a brilliant entrepreneur and apparently something of a jerk (brilliant people, sadly, often are), is famous for having said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Whatever you believe? Yep, you’re right.

But are you sure you want to be?