Choosing What We Believe

A few choices I’ve made in the past week:

Have a cup or bowl of black bean soup (I went with bowl). Call out “HI!” to an acquaintance I saw across the street (I did). Make time to look at the peach colored morning light over the harbor (yes, sort of).

To be alive on any given day is to be confronted with a stunning array of choices. Many are unthinking for us - we always take the same route to work, get a cinnamon raisin bagel with butter. We can’t possibly think, think, think through every decision; otherwise we’d be paralyzed every time we step out of the house.

But tucked into that heap of unthinking choices are some that are worth pulling out and thinking about. These are the choices about what we believe.

If I get a rejection, I could unthinkingly believe it’s a reflection of my self-worth. If I fumble, blush, forget my words while trying to impress someone, I could believe I’m a fool who always messes this kind of stuff up.

But those - like a cup or bowl of soup - are actually choices. They might not seem like it; the belief rages in like a tornado, sweeping out any other possibility and asserting itself as The Truth. Still, we do have a choice in how we make meaning of rejection and slip-ups, criticisms and setbacks. We have a choice in what we believe.

These aren’t effortless choices. I have to choose with determination to believe that someone’s criticism of my work is true for them, but isn’t necessarily true for me. I have to choose with determination to believe that rejection doesn’t mean I should throw in the towel. I have to choose with determination to believe that my gluttony at Friday’s dinner doesn’t mean I’ll eat like a vacuum at every meal.

These choices ask that we not only think, but feel our way through them, that we draw on a greater intelligence than just the brains in our heads. They ask that we reflect (not ruminate), discern (over knee-jerk decisions), believe in our growth (rather than think we’re stuck as we are). For me, then, these are effortful choices.

That’s the effort, though, that helps us lay claim to our beliefs by finding our way honestly to what we believe, rather than unthinkingly accept what we’re told to believe.

Beliefs give our lives form and meaning. And we have a big say in what those beliefs are. If we choose.

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