On the devastating side, for example, say that you firmly believe that all homosexuals are sinners who will go to Hell unless they accept Jesus Christ, seek God’s forgiveness, and change their evil ways.
Now say that you have a son who finally reveals to you that he is a homosexual. And he will not, despite you even begging on your knees, accept Jesus Christ, seek God’s forgiveness, nor change his ways. In fact, he informs you he is quite okay with being a homosexual.
Inside you, and likely with your son as well, you now have a war. You will surely hope your son comes to question his beliefs and choices, but will you question your own? How extensively will you let your belief that your son is Hell-bound tear you up inside, and tear at your relationship with your son? How extensively will you question your belief?
The point is not where you will finally land if and when you question deeply – you may ultimately land right back where you currently believe, in which case you did your work in that space and now you must work in other spaces such acceptance.
But the point IS (and despite some conventional advice to the contrary) to do yourself, those you love and the world around you the justice of deeply and routinely questioning your beliefs.
Some may respond that questioning your beliefs means you must not actually believe them. (You will sometimes find these same people mocking or peering down their noses at other people’s beliefs … “Ha, ha, ha, that gullible fool believes in aliens and ghosts” or “How sad, that sick woman believes that prayer can help cure her.”) Such resistance is, however, merely a sign that their own beliefs are resting on a shaky foundation of fear, anger, or some other negative emotion.
Belief, if the belief is true, will hold up to the widest and deepest self-exploration and self-scrutiny. For love, peace and happiness, you deserve to question all your beliefs.
So tell the truth: which of your beliefs are currently sabotaging you?
For example, are there beliefs about each of the people surrounding you in your life that are holding you back from better relationships with them? Care-fully question where your beliefs about these others really might have emanated from – a single incident or just a few, someone else who told you so, your own past? Would those people agree with your beliefs about them? If not, are you sure you aren’t believing what you want to believe – based on your fear, anger, stereotypes, selfish desires – versus what is really true?
Within key categories of your life such as love and relationships, religion/spirituality, finances, career, and politics, you can make a list (on paper, on your computer, or even just in your mind) of all the most fundamental beliefs that you hold.
Then start exploring each of them thoroughly.
Because beliefs can cling so well to our emotions, it can help to pretend that each of those beliefs are objects independent of you. Imagine that the belief object has shape, color, and texture and that you can open them up to see their very insides. Start by picking one up and exploring it thoroughly.
How is this belief potentially beneficial to you and those you love? How is it potentially harmful to you and those you love?
What is the belief composed of? Where did it originate from? If you lived in a different time or a different place, would you still hold this belief?
The healthiest thing you can be is open. Open to love, open to friendship, open to wonder, open to learning. And open to having your beliefs transformed through deep and routine examination.
Conviction, Not Addiction
As you can tell with the name of this website and my mission – IntenseExperiences.com – I am a huge advocate of delving into new (and ever-deeper into old) experiences because, unlike trying to force the issue via willpower, experience and exploration enable new truths to bypass the often rigid and resistant layers of the mind and enter straight into the heart and spirit. Like water, they find all the side- and back-openings inside you.
Further, of course, experience and exploration are what provide new insights and understanding in the first place … the very nutrients for expanded and transformed beliefs. They are both the best method of delivery and the thing being delivered.
So routinely and vigilantly question your beliefs. Provide yourself new experiences so you can most effectively question and grow, and to give yourself new knowledge to form your beliefs from.
This openness to change – versus an addiction to unexamined and rigidly held beliefs – leads to real conviction, which works seeming miracles at transforming your life for the better.