How to take a stand for what you believe in

May 14, 2010 at 11:27 pm 1 comment

Written by Esther Denn

We are living in a world with so much misinformation being put out every day by the media, political groups and even individuals.  People are coming to rely on quick sound bites and opinions for the basis of their beliefs.  I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me, “I believe so and so to be true because so and so said it on television or I heard it or read it somewhere.”  Upon further questioning, they can’t seem to justify the basis of what they believe.  The danger becomes the self fulfilling prophecy, “If you cannot stand up for what you believe in, you will fall for anything.”

Oprah Winfrey interviewed the author, Geneen Roth, who wrote the New York Times bestseller, “Women, Food and God.” In a nutshell, it is a book about examining our core belief systems whether you are female or male.  During the interview, Oprah shocked and moved her audience by tearfully sharing how she came to examine some of her belief systems as a result of reading the book.  Oprah explained how she had received a telephone call asking her to do something that she declined to do.  Immediately after saying no to the caller, Oprah found herself automatically reaching for a salad when she was not hungry.  Upon examining the reasons why she kept turning to food, she uncovered the belief that if she said no to someone, they would not accept her and she would be punished.  This core belief system came from her childhood when she was beaten by her grandmother and told that she could not refuse to do what she was told.   Oprah’s story reminded me of the passage in the bible from 1st Corinthians 13, “When I was a child, I talked like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. “  The author Geneen Roth and Oprah both concluded that as we become adults, we no longer have to hold on to those childish belief systems that someone ne else put in our lives and impede us from fully living.

My father had a 4th grade education.   He was a self taught man through a love of reading and life experience.   I have come to realize over time that he was a philosopher.  One of the values he instilled in his children was to apply the techniques of study and research to life’s questions. Before we were allowed to apply makeup, we had to research fashion magazines and learn the correct techniques.  If we expressed an opinion, we had to justify it with reasons.  No wonder, I disliked my first college philosophy class.  It takes hard work to justify your beliefs.  You have to take them apart, explore why you believe them and find justifiable reasons to support them.  It also involves looking at the opposite of your beliefs which can often be difficult when you beliefs are deeply entrenched.  Self examination takes courage.  I remember the first time I read “Women who Love Too Much”, by Robin Norwood.  I felt like someone else had lived my life and exposed it for what it was.  It was very painful to say the least but at the same time it was a freeing experience that set me on a life-long path of personal growth.  I learned the meaning of Socrates words, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Looking at both sides of a question can help you become more understanding to its complexities and to other people’s positions.   Stop putting people who are smarter, prettier, and wealthy on pedestals as experts for your life.  You are the expert of your own life. We all have feet of clay that is colored by our experiences and deeply held beliefs.  Many of our idols over time have come crashing down off the pedestals we placed them on.   Learn to stop being a black and white person and begin to accept shades of grey in your life.  People will respond to you.

I would like to offer the philosophical approach in examining your beliefs and a guide to development.   Let’s start by reviewing the definition of philosophy.

Philosophy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.   It is distinguished from other ways of addressing fundamental questions (such as mysticism, myth, or the arts) by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument.[3] The word “Philosophy” comes from the Greek φιλοσοφία [philosophia], which literally means “love of wisdom“.

The ideas conceived by a society have profound repercussions on what actions the society performs. The applied study of philosophy yields applications such as those in ethicsapplied ethics in particular – and political philosophy. The political and economic philosophies of Confucius, Sun Zi, Chanakya, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Taimiyyah, Niccolò Machiavelli, Gottfried Leibniz, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and others – all of these have been used to shape and justify governments and their actions.

In philosophy, you can’t just say “my view is” or “so and so said.”  You must say “I believe this because of the following reasons which support my view. “To support your view, collect all the evidence you can by reading, research, quantify it, make it trustworthy and present it well.  You want to know what the new health care legislation means to you and others, then look it up and read it.  Don’t rely on others to form your opinion.  Use records, documents, photographs.” (excerpts from The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers).  In expressing your beliefs, be cognizant of the following (excerpts from The Tech Republic):

  • Watch out for arguments that say something is right.
  • Don’t fall for arguments that rely on wide acceptance and popularity.  It may not be right for you.
  • Watch out for arguments with little or no connection to the issue at stake.
  • Beware of attacks to a similar, weaker, or ridiculous position opposite of yours as an attempt to undermine yours.
  • You may lose your position on the basis of unobtainable perfection but you will still have done your best in presenting your argument.

Philosophy is not just an esoteric exercise meant to pass the time.  The student of philosophy can apply these techniques to every area of their lives.  In business, we have to justify our actions, provide reasons for our arguments and accountability for the bottom line.  Too often, people just complain but are not willing to offer well thought out reasoning for the complaints as well as solutions for problem solving.  It takes work to be a philosopher but it is well worth the effort.  You will achieve more understanding as well as respect from others just for having gone through the exercise.  The best is yet to come because you will no longer be held captive by outdated belief systems or “…see through a glass darkly.”

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Life happens when you least expect it… People behaving badly

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Joephine Self  |  May 17, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Very interesting and so true while we are interacting with one another through life. The tribute was beautiful also.
    Take care and keep up the good work.

    Reply

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