To believe or not to believe—that is the question…
What is a belief? Something we accept as right and true whether there is any evidence or not. At times, our judgment may be clouded, influenced by new evidence or with an experience that changes our beliefs. By doing so, we are evolving and learning and that is living. We can have firm beliefs, but accept others have their own for their reasons.
That’s what makes us individuals as we learn from one another, discussing, at times arguing or disagreeing.
Types of beliefs
There are several types of beliefs that we encounter in our life, some are harmless, others may change over time and then the belief in ourselves. Ultimately it is something we can only decide for ourselves and throughout our lives as we grow older and allegedly wiser these beliefs change and adapt; perhaps we become more cynical or we see things from different perspectives.
What influences our beliefs? Our environment, education, peer groups, media, literature, a past life memory or real-life experiences—how do we determine whether we are being brainwashed or whether we are deciding what is right for our authentic self, not to please anyone or to look good, but solely through unconditional choices and beliefs?
Many of us grow up believing in Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy, but are they harmless beliefs? Both have an innocence about them, but they also have benefits; namely gifts and money! Yes, we grow out of them and the tooth fairy is an incentive to pull teeth out, but when do we stop believing or do people still believe in Father Christmas which is a booming trade? Some people are choosing to tell children from an early age these beliefs are not true, taking away their childhood innocence when they would have realized it eventually by themselves.
Imagine my horror when I was looking after my cousin’s eiight-year-old son when he told me how much he got from the tooth fairy and admitted he knew it was his dad, then said, “Do you know Father Christmas isn’t real either?” At which point I corrected him, wanting to take him to Macy’s and asked him who told him. I was even more shocked when he said, “Mom told me!”
Several members of my family were as shocked and my poor cousin thought she was doing the right thing, telling him the truth. He is a very independent child and a savvy New Yorker, so is pretending to believe still, so as to enjoy the festive season for what it is. There are some things we need to believe in to enjoy, if not for ourselves, but for others. Just imagine the Christmas trade would be ruined if no one believed in Father Christmas which is the biggest trading season in the year.
Is there any harm in believing in fairies and the like? As long as it doesn't affect others lives then we should be free to believe what we want. For example in Iceland, road works were halted to protect the elves living nearby. Even adults believe, as the situation was resolved with someone who mediated with the elves.
Watch out for the Fairies!
What did you believe in as a child?
Believe in You
Believing in yourself isn’t arrogant, that’s only when you think you are better than others, but having faith in what you say, do or want to do is a personal challenge many of us face throughout our lives. If you struggle to believe in yourself, it is hard for others to believe in you too. For some people I meet I see their belief has been knocked out of them through others cruel, harsh and inappropriate and often unnecessary actions or words.
At times when this begins in childhood, it can have a devastating long-term effect as you never had anyone believe in you from the start.
A few kind reassuring words, ‘I believe in you,’ can make all the difference and change someone’s beliefs about themselves and indeed their life. By having faith and believing in yourself is the first step to understanding yourself and your life purpose. It doesn’t matter what others think, only what you think and believe.
What influences you?
External influences and social conditioning
What we learn in school forms the basis of our knowledge and what we believe and trust in. Who is around us as a child, parents, siblings or other family members influences our beliefs subconsciously and remain with us. So too are the friendships we have and choose to make, the books we read, websites we frequent, television programs we watch and newspapers and magazines we favor. Once we are removed from the environment we can see how heavily these factors influenced our thinking and beliefs, at times some may consider it brain washing especially when people have read or seen something and decide to change their life because of it.
Whether it is to change your diet to become vegan, to follow a religion, not to visit another country because of what you heard or not to read a book or see a film because of a review. We must be objective as we are bombarded with opinions, reports and reviews and may miss out on things that we might like because of an external influence. I didn’t go and see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, primarily because of poor reviews from my friends on social media and in real life, but I had seen An Unexpected Journey and was unexpectedly disappointed and as there was six inches of snow outside, all these factors contributed to my decision. However, I still don't know whether it was a good film or not!
Impartial reviews or biased opinions?
Reviews today are more easily accessible online and should be used with caution. Naturally they are useful, but also consider there may be bogus, planted reviews (people get paid to write them) or people may have a dispute with the person or company and deliberately post a negative review as revenge. I always look at a broad section and read the posters other reviews to see if they are always negative and ascertain if they are genuine.
Ultimately, it’s an opinion, if backed up with facts, it's then up to the reader to decide. Today, reviews can make or break a film, restaurant or company and their influence over what people believe or are induced to believe cannot be underestimated. Companies fight to get bad reviews removed as freedom on the internet can be both positive and negative. Personally when I review, I look for both the positive and negative factors if I feel it can help others and am fair in the pros and cons, as what is important to me may not be to others and vice versa.
Respect and accept
Resist external influences by learning to take things with a grain of salt. Not only does it aid us in formulating our own beliefs, they affect the essence of who we are and who we become. Some may judge us from our beliefs, but that is not to say theirs are any better or right and your beliefs belong to you and you don’t have to account for them. Some people may have questionable beliefs, but may be they will change in time and that is their lesson to learn!
Although we stereotype people subconsciously, those who leave their environment and experience other cultures can see what other societies believe in and what they consider the norm. With globalization, there are more opportunities to travel around the world and there is often a clash of cultures, not only in your own country, (North and South divide, or the East and West coast divide) and we must accept and respect these beliefs, even if we don't understand them or necessarily agree with them. That said, if we choose to live in a country or community with different beliefs, we should adapt to them and respect them rather than impose our own. We can express them, but should not expect others to follow and implement them through coercion. Accept and respect others beliefs and they will yours!
Clinging to beliefs is not always healthy, but you change them only when you are ready. Some people cling to some beliefs to help them cope with loss or to deal with guilt. Those are hard to shake and some need them even though they know they may not be true, but want to.
Not all facts are not necessarily truths, only what we want to believe in. Even government reports can never be accurate, as they only report what they know and have access to. It can never be a true and complete picture, anyone who has worked in an office knows there are deadlines and a certain amount will be edited or rounded up or down. Cynical? That's real life!
Frankie Laine, "I Believe"- the words speak for themselves
Even if our beliefs change over time, this is called evolving, but so does society and what is considered the norm. Only a century ago, homosexual relationships were considered a criminal act and children born out of wedlock were not recognized, now most of society accept these as social norms. That is not to say it is right or wrong, but that it is part of humanity and that it exists.
Those that are anti-technology admit a GPS can be more up-to-date than a map, or that you can do something and succeed despite others not believing in you. Some may insist on hoisting their beliefs upon you, but believe in you and your own beliefs and let others deal with theirs and yes, I do still believe in elves that move things around the house...
© 2014 S T Alvyn