Where Do Your Beliefs Come From?
Beliefs are unnecessary and dangerous.
What is your favourite belief? Where did that belief come from?
Beliefs are strange things. The older I get the more I realise that beliefs aren’t necessary. In fact, beliefs are dangerous — as dangerous as a bucketful of marbles scattered at your feet. Beliefs impede your steps and guarantee you’re going to take a tumble.
A quip often attributed to Mark Twain is:
It’s not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.
In other words, it’s what we believe (know for sure without proof) that gets us into trouble.
There's a difference between what we know and what we believe.
We know the sun will come up every morning. We don’t have to create a belief about that. But beliefs are things we’re certain about although we don’t have proof. Beliefs create cyclical thought patterns and generate emotions which help them put down strong roots to ensure their survival.
We use our beliefs to guide our steps, to help us make sense of our world, to show us a way through the chaos and fear of everyday life. Our beliefs form a mental map and we refer to it often.
We drag out the map of our beliefs when we reach crossroads. We smooth out the creases in the parchment of beliefs we’ve been constructing probably before we were even born, and look for directions in its complex arrangement of what we’ve chosen to believe.
But maps can be wrong.
Armies and sailing ships have lost their way reading inaccurate maps. And most of us must admit we’ve lost our way and been wrecked on the rocky shores of life many times.
Like most people, I’ve believed a lot of things in my life that weren’t true and haven’t helped me at all. I’ll give just one example:
I believed Christ was going to return in 1975.
That’s one belief that wasn’t worth having!
But I constructed my whole life around it. Because I believed He was physically coming through the clouds of heaven to touch down in the holy city of Jerusalem I spent my teenage years praying every day that I’d be considered worthy enough to sit on His right hand and rule forevermore.
We rarely change our beliefs, even when we’re proved wrong. When 1975 came but Christ failed to make an appearance, I didn’t chuck that belief out. I just modified it to the belief that He would return when He was ready, and renewed my vigilant prayers on calloused knees.
Where do beliefs come from?
Beliefs come from our fears.
Why do we have beliefs? What purpose do they serve?
People have beliefs so they’re not scared about what they don’t know.
Beliefs fill the gaps caused by what we want to know but can’t.
For example, ancient people didn’t know what was over the horizon, so they believed the world was flat. (They didn’t know it was flat. They believed it was flat, because the idea of it being round was scary.) We can’t know what’s going to happen when we die, so we create a pleasant belief to fill that gap in our knowledge. (We don’t know what will happen but believe it will be good so we’re not too scared when we hear the sweeping swish of the Grim Reaper’s blade.)
Beliefs are armour we put on to give us a sense of security. We use spears (like words or actions) to force others to believe what we do and manipulate our shields so we’re not wounded by others’ beliefs which conflict with ours.
But let’s face it, decking ourselves out like a medieval knight is a cumbersome way to live.
Is there a better way?
Yes, there is.
Living with mindfulness
Stop creating beliefs to hide what you don’t know.
Choose not to be scared by what you don’t know.
To say you don’t know is a powerful position to be in. It’s where growth happens. It’s where adventure begins. It’s where the freedom of letting go abides.
Let go of beliefs.
Say 'I don't know!'
Let the light of not knowing guide you.
With love, Marlane