I do my best to ask myself this often. It forces me to always check my ego and my personal beliefs…to challenge my assumptions. This is important because I understand that my beliefs are the result of my personal upbringing, the people I spend time with, the books I read, the shows I watch, and everything else I choose to allow to influence my beliefs and how I think.
Who am I to say I’m right and someone else is wrong? Who am I to suggest that my parents, the books I’ve read, the media I read or watch…makes me right and someone else with different parents, growing up in a different place, who read different books or watched different media…is wrong? Who am I to say the influencers in my life are better/smarter/more accurate than someone else’s? Who am I to say my religious beliefs are right and others’ are wrong? How naïve and small-minded must I be to tell others my political beliefs are right and theirs are wrong?
Who am I to say the way I choose to believe is right, and the way someone else chooses to believe, is wrong?
There is no “right” or “wrong” when discussing someone’s beliefs. That’s the point of a “belief”. Beliefs are not facts. Beliefs are based on our personal interpretations of the data we choose to consume and digest throughout our lifetime. It’s based on the level of understanding we have at this point in our life, which is unique to us.
As human beings, I also understand that we then tend to constantly search out that which supports and reinforces our already existing beliefs. We surround ourselves with people who think the way we do. We read articles and watch documentaries that reinforce the way we already think.
Few have the courage or even desire, to seek out that which may challenge their existing beliefs, even if after doing so, it brings greater clarity and greater conviction to their own beliefs.
Why not? Well, I suppose because there is a chance they will learn something new that forces them to reconsider a strongly held belief they’ve had, which would mean they were wrong? How foolish would someone feel looking back at their strongly held convictions, their fierce arguments with others, their “un-friending” of long-time friends, and suddenly realize that perhaps the way they believed throughout all of those discussions has now changed? That all those years of believing one way, has now changed due to new input, greater understanding, and having an open mind?
That’s a painful possibility. Too painful for most. So it is easier to simply argue with our limited understanding of our existing beliefs and avoid asking ourselves the question, “What if I’m wrong?”
Media outlets such as Crisis News Network (CNN) is superb at planting beliefs in people’s minds. They get paid to convince the masses what to think about and how to think about it. But the truth is, they can’t do that unless people allow them to. We must first choose to engage by turning on CNN or clicking on the CNN app on our phone or iPad. And the sad reality is, our natural inclination is to read and watch the stories we think will reinforce our existing beliefs before we click on the article that just might expand our mindset or challenge our beliefs. That’s just human nature. I fall into this trap all too often myself, and I get it. But I force myself to understand how this game is played, and not to allow CNN alone to dictate my beliefs.
This natural habit of only seeking out things that reinforce our existing beliefs severely impedes our ability to expand our understanding, our thinking, and our mindsets. Being open to new ideas and new learning, and yes, things that could potentially challenge our existing beliefs forces us to grow. It leads us to accept others and be more understanding of their beliefs. No, we do not need to agree, but it sure makes for better, open-ended, productive conversations rather than pig-headed arguments with people each believing the other is wrong in how they think.
So, what if I’m wrong? I commit to asking myself this even more than ever going forward. I commit to understanding and accepting that other’s beliefs are simply based on their understanding and interpretation of things up to this point in their life. No different than how my beliefs were created.
Yet, I commit to always expanding my mindset. To challenging my beliefs and being open to new ideas. To watching documentaries that both reinforce AND challenge the way I currently think. To read books that don’t necessarily support my existing beliefs. To turn off the news and listen to others and be interested in their opinion, and ask WHY they’ve come to that belief. And to always check my ego and belief system by asking, “What if I’m wrong?”