We all have our beliefs and biases. Beliefs are collections of ideas that appear to fit together in a way that makes sense. The appearance is often shaky at best, but very powerful, guiding the behaviors of millions of people.
Biases I like to describe this way: Anytime I agree with something or disagree with something, that is a red flag of my bias. Whether I agree or disagree doesn’t matter, but the fact that I have a pre-existing opinion of something that automatically approves or disapproves any fact, person or situation floating by - that is a bias. It leads to prejudice and discrimination without basis. Bias vs. basis.
April 22 was Earth Day 2017, and across the country there were local examples of the March for Science. People came out to demonstrate their belief that government decisions should be guided by evidence-based facts instead of the belief that regulations cut into profits. Both are beliefs, and both are biases.
Religions use a code of beliefs – dogma, doctrine and rules – to explain suffering and give a reason to keep living in positive ways. Religions teach that, when a person dies of murder or accident, that gods or God is in control and has a reason for it. They hold that, if we’re good, we’ll go to heaven when we die. These beliefs help us cope with life challenges. When we believe it, and the surrounding rules of behavior, we hold a bias.
The point is that, whatever our beliefs and biases, they help us to feel better about ourselves and our lives. Beliefs and biases help us function better because they save us from having to examine the evidence behind every decision we make. If we knew all the facts behind everything we do, it would overwhelm the mind and stop us from taking any real action. We’d starve to death trying to decide what to eat.
But we don’t starve. We stuff random bits of edibles into our mouths without a thought. It’s only when a group of people begins dying from the same “food” that we stop and think about it. Reality comes calling.
It’s an important thing because reality is very powerful. It can kill you or it can give you a long, prosperous life. If our beliefs and biases become too disconnected from reality, our ability to function in healthy, constructive ways is hindered. I could step off a cliff and either God will send his angels to save me or I’ll end up in Heaven. Either way, I’m good … according to my beliefs.
But if I check reality, I have a natural, inbuilt fear of falling. Normally I don’t step off a cliff. My God-given nature stops me. If my beliefs allow me to jump, I’m out of touch with reality. I’m insane.
It’s not always that extreme, of course. Sometimes my beliefs just keep me from getting rich or from getting the exercise I need. Something stops me from trusting my own ability to prosper: I belief having lots of money isn’t spiritual and will keep me from going to heaven. Or I think people at the gym or the park are all going to judge my body shape, so I avoid the embarrassment and the exercise.
My belief systems hold me back from becoming the person who deserves the things I love. The reality is that I don’t believe that I deserve these things. I want good things for myself and for others, but I’m afraid to try. If I try, I might fail; and if I fail, people would talk bad about me. Horrifying! Deal breaker! Life-stopping. I’m just not good enough. I’m unable. I’m worthless, hopeless and helpless. Nobody loves me.
What a crazy set of beliefs.
But consider what Jesus said: Love your neighbor as yourself. It wasn’t just ‘love your neighbor.’ There’s a premise in there: Something is assumed to happen before you love your neighbor. Love your self!
The reality is that, when I love myself, it flips all the old fears and limiting beliefs on their heads. I need to take care of myself. It’s the natural, built-in thing. But not only that, I need to take care of myself first!
Until I love myself and take care of myself, I don’t have the energy or ability to love or take care of anything. I’m just a blob on the face of society. I need to be forgiven. I need people to love me. They need to love me because I’m not loving myself. Everybody needs love. If I’m not getting love, I need to start loving myself.
It’s not egotistical; it’s self care. When I love myself, I’m able to make positive changes easily. I love me so I feel good. People around me sense that I feel good, so they feel good, too! They are attracted to me. Because I love me I can do whatever I want. I might fail, but that’s okay because I’ll just go on with life. And because failure doesn’t matter, I can try over and over again until I get it right … And I’ll still love me! And because I still feel good about myself, the people around me feel good about me, and so they feel good about themselves, too.
People have been failing for millennia. Successful people have failed at least seven times to achieve what they are trying to do. That means they tried seven times and didn’t get it right, but they just kept right on trying. Because they love themselves.
In the end, it’s your beliefs that make you or break you. “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right,” according the Henry Ford.
That’s the reality. I’m not perfect. Never have been, never will be. But I love myself, and I’m having fun trying out new things. I don’t ever get it perfectly right the first time, but I keep trying and, in the end, I never fail. It’s impossible! I have unlimited tries! I could play this game the rest of my life. Fun!