Can you remember the last time you asked belief related questions such as Why do I believe what I believe? How did I come to think/feel the way I do? What are the common beliefs in my family and community in which I have no specific personal reference or experience? As we grow and mature, it is wise to question the origin of our respective beliefs and to potentially self-correct as indicated by our own conscience.
Most people surely know what they believe. Yet how often do we honestly question and attempt to understand why or how a particular belief came to be? What would happen if we simply questioned- Is that true? regarding our specific beliefs? And, could we simply outgrow a belief? I believe we can and we often do as we mature, release old beliefs and integrate more truth. Letting truth replace old beliefs increases our knowledge base and we become more mature and whole in the process.
Recently, I accepted the idea that we are all born into a pre-established trans-generational culture and environment in which beliefs are evident but not necessarily ever spoken. We often just live by inherited beliefs without knowing their origin or purpose. By me asking if the beliefs I lived by at age fifteen still support a 2016 life style, I was able to outgrow some that no longer serve me at my current age.
If old beliefs are not helping us to thrive, we change them if we want to change them. Maria Nemeth, PhD, an internationally respected professional life coach sometimes helps clients evaluate the desire to thrive in contrast to staying stuck in outdated paradigms that are simply no longer applicable to the current time. She suggests that once we form a belief, we begin collecting evidence to support it. It is easy to observe this process in others and ourselves if we mindfully give attention to our thoughts. Perhaps in our process of gathering evidence, we tend to screen out facts even truthful ones that are contrary to our own perceptions. As we observe ourselves, we can choose in any moment to update beliefs.
So, what’s the point of all this peering into subconscious stuff? A contemporary spiritual teacher suggests that we often take the paved road of our ancestors and lay it out in front of us expecting it to take us into the future. What if we would consider building a newer, more dynamic road designed to better meet the challenges of today? How can a 50-year-old road serve the accelerated traffic of modern times? Willingness is a great step toward shifting into soul expanding maturity and becoming a more whole human.
In this era of unpredictable activity on our planet, there seems to be an increase in tension and violence. Perhaps, like me, you have been asking: “What can I do?” I think the single most important thing we can do is to begin self-examination. Maybe we can ask ourselves if we are brave enough to dare to step into a future with new possibilities about how to gain a win-win-win outcome to our very complex global issues.
William Ury, an American author, academic, anthropologist,and negotiation expert and co-founder of The Third Side, a Harvard program on negotiation, describes win-win-win as resolving conflicts without compromise by finding creative solutions that serve both opposing parties and the wholeness of humanity simultaneously. Still, we must each ask ourselves, what is mine to do in the age of erupting conflict and seemingly senseless violence? Are we willing to go to a higher level (Ury calls it the balcony) and to observe with detached presence a creative possibility that renders a proactive response to current issues?
The invitation of our time is to first remember that we are ONE HUMANITY with ONE SOURCE who shares ONE PLANET. Then we can make a commitment to invite and allow honest self-reflection. We can begin with: How can I, as one person, admit and own personal biases and prejudices that literally contribute to what we see happening “out there”?
Are we really willing to journey, with a candle of Spirit, deeply into the roots of our own personal beliefs and illumine the hidden things within us? If so, very likely we will discover parts of ourselves that most certainly, at best, make us uncomfortable. Are we then willing to identify and expose our own prejudices and biases and allow self-correction in alignment with Oneness? If not, stop here. If so, read on.
The following illustration is used by the Anti-Defamation League and is offered in a No Place For Hate school program designed to address bullying. There are three primary objectives: 1. Examine how discrimination based on bias can escalate into acts of violence. 2. Discuss the impact of prejudice on individuals and on society. 3. Recognize the role of individuals in interrupting the escalation of hate.
I submit that we, as intelligent adults, can do no less than what we ask of our children. When we look at the bottom rung of the pyramid we quickly see how easily our biases can escalate and create disparity and injustices in a wide arena of our society. Will you join me now by choosing to step out of the comfort zone and risk seeing more clearly?
Don’t all humans have biases? Will you take some reflective time to consider the impact of the acts of biases listed below? (Contemporary wisdom says that as we own them, they lose their power in our lives.)
Stereotyping– I suggest that each and every one of us can claim this category if we simply listen to our thoughts and fill in the blanks with ideas like “men always…” “women never…” etc.
Jokes– I doubt there is anyone among us who has never heard an unflattering ethnic story designed to have us laugh at the expense of others.
Rumors– Don’t we just love to hear about other people being “caught” at something or other that society doesn’t condone?
Justifying biases by seeking out like minded people– When is the last time you spent some significant time with people you didn’t know in an unfamiliar location?
Screening out positive information– What might happen if we chose to ignore those juicy tidbits that tempt us to judge another thus deflecting attention to our own personal flaws?
Insensitive remarks and non-inclusive language– We have all been there and done that. The question is, can we change our insensitive habits and become open and inclusive?
Our world is filled with injustice. Injustices begin with biases. Biases can mean different things depending upon one’s personal experiences and level of maturity to understand complex issues. In the US, there seems to be a split attitude about racial disparity. We have presumed that not talking about things that disturb us will make them disappear. Many American Caucasians are simply not concerned because they are not aware that most white skinned people have privileges granted by western society by virtue of birth. This phenomenon infects every country on Earth when the majority, regardless of race, gender etc. treat the minority as less than equal and too often also not respectfully.
Because we grew up just believing what we heard and experienced, many prejudices are so subtle that we don’t even recognize them. For instance, being raised in a Protestant community where white and black races did not mingle at church or elsewhere unless there was a “hire for work” relationship, I was aware of racial disparity and hypocritical behaviors by leaders in our churches and the community at large. It took many years for me to recognize that many irrational and unrealistic beliefs stood in the way of some wonderful relationship potentials.
Fortunately I outgrew irrational beliefs and since moving to the diverse city of Huntsville, Al, I became a volunteer for Global Ties Alabama. I am now blessed and privileged to have friends the world over. This photo is an example of some international visitors my husband and I are honored to have hosted in our home. We have become global citizens who really appreciate the eclectic experiences of cultural diversity.
Diversity, it seems to me, is cause for celebration and appreciation of uniqueness. If one cannot find heart space to embrace diversity, it is time to take personal inventory about what one thinks, feels and believes in order to shift into conscious loving citizens of the world. It is time to take back personal power, to stop letting news media determine our position and to identify where our own thoughts originated then take the necessary steps to heal what is out of balance and make some decisions about how to self correct. It seems crucial and prudent in this age of global terrorism to implement a personal process that gains knowledge through self-inquiry with questions like the following short list of examples:
– How much of what I believe about the outer world is a result of biased media reports?
-What do I declare true as I hear my favorite clergy purport his/her version of the facts?
-Have I considered that my current perceptions may have been distorted by childhood experiences and the significant prejudices practiced in my community?
-When have I repeated a statement that another made without examining factual knowledge about the event?
-How often have I failed to get to know a person of another culture, race or religion for reasons I could not explain?
-Where did I get the feeling of fear about another race, culture or religion and is it valid?
Self-reflection is not a beginning-to-end process. It is an ongoing commitment to continuously question one’s own thoughts.
The Holy Spirit’s Interpretation of the New Testament II Corinthians Chapter 13 reinforces my decision and the fact that I am one with all: “Your true thoughts are below the thoughts of the world, closer to your Heart, because they stem from there. They stem from your truth as so they are your truth, Listen to your truth and know, within, who you are. Within the Mind all is one, for there is no separation of any kind. All mind is of one Source, so all mind is one through its Source, which cannot be apart from itself. Love one another, for you are of one Mind. In loving one another, you love your truth. In this love, you are one. Amen.”
I, for one, affirm that I am ready and willing to look honestly within and consider a shift. Will you join me?
– Wanda Gail Campbell
Wanda has served thirty plus years as a healthcare professional. Currently, she serves as a Minister of Peace ordained by The Beloved Community. In July, 2007 she completed her PhD in Philosophy focused on Intercultural Peacemaking. For her own spiritual nourishment, she enjoys reading both contemporary and ancient spiritual writings.