We love to argue our points. We love referencing sources that support our position. And we love being correct. But what about when we aren’t?
Our behavior stems from our deep-rooted beliefs. These beliefs shape what we think, how we act, and who we are. But when two people have opposing beliefs, one of them is wrong. And there’s a good chance they both could be wrong.
I remember backing out of the driveway when I was nine or ten years old, with my family, headed to church. My best friend at the time, three houses down, was backing out of his driveway, with his family, on the way to their church. We were going to two different churches, with two different set of beliefs. I remember thinking… one of us is wrong.
Imagine believing in something so strongly, something you’ve believed in your whole life, then finding out what you believed wasn’t true. It reminds me of the scene from A Few Good Men, when Lt. Kaffee (Tom Cruise) is heatedly questioning Col. Jessup (Jack Nicholson) on the stand. Jessup asks, “You want answers?” Kaffee responds with, “I want the truth!” Then Jessup angrily, loudly, and directly tells Kaffee, in one of the most memorable lines in movie history… “You can’t handle the truth!”
There are truths out there that directly contradict what you believe today. It might be your political beliefs, your religious beliefs, your social beliefs, or your medical beliefs. We defend our deepest beliefs strongly. First, we don’t like to be wrong. Second, to accept a new belief means that a lot of what we did, what we thought, and how we lived in the past was wrong. And third, it means we have to shift how we act, what we think, and how we proceed moving forward.
It is so hard for humans to accept new beliefs. It takes honesty, openness, and a whole lot of guts to shift your position. Instead, we hang on to old beliefs, dismissing new evidence, ignoring new points of view, and clinging to resources, people, and organizations that share our original way of thinking. This is so debilitating, harmful, and dangerous.
We all say that we want the truth, but that’s not true if the truth goes against your long-standing beliefs. Since our beliefs essentially drive our identity, changing those often comes with a loss of friends, a change in our daily routines, and often even a loss of income. If income is tied to your current set of beliefs, change is even harder.
When it comes to very heated, current topics, such as politics, COVID-19, or vaccines, it is hard to understand how two people can look at the same thing and see it so differently. But they do. And there are reasons why they do. And because these issues are so rooted in long-term beliefs, minds aren’t changing. But if there are two opposing beliefs, one is incorrect.
My goal is not to change minds. My goal for myself is to keep an open mind, take in any and all data, truly listen to both sides, and work hard to uncover the truth. It is easy these days to find supporting data and resources supporting any position to help prove you are right. But I don’t want to just be right, I want the truth. I often think about huge shifts in beliefs in history, from the discovery that the world was round, not flat, that the earth was not the center of the solar system, that cigarettes do, in fact, cause cancer, and that genes do not determine your destiny. The truth was fought hard. Good people opposed it. Smart people influenced against it. Selfish people profited from it. And the majority of people just went along with it. The truth didn’t just rear its head, it took time for people to realize it. If you discovered some truth today that goes against whatever you believed yesterday, are you ready for your world to get rocked, your mind to be blown, and are you ready to be open to whatever that truth is. I can say that I am. My mind is open to be changed. I want the truth! I hope you do too.