Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
It’s really hard for me to believe how wrong everyone else is. What a more pleasant world it would be if everyone just agreed with me, drove the way I wanted them to, fell in line with my set of beliefs. How pleasant that world would be.
I am, of course, being facetious. I think. The title of this article is tongue in cheek, I think. And I write it knowing that I’m wrong. About a lot of stuff. I think.
Statistics show that most people rarely ever change their minds about a specific issue or firmly held belief. If I remember correctly, in one of the psychology books I read for class at some level of education said that only 5% of people ever change their beliefs. When we reflect on that, our first thought is typically, “Wow. Most people are really, really stubborn. I’m so glad I’m enlightened.” But we’re not. Guess who part of that 5% statistic is? Me.
Why is it so hard to change beliefs? I think we’ve all been there. I would guess most adults have changed their beliefs about something. Why is it so difficult?
First, there’s a huge thing called our emotions. When our beliefs are challenged those beliefs are often attached to our emotions. We may not mean to take someone challenging our beliefs personally, but it often turns out that way. I was watching the show American Pickers the other day. It’s a show where antique fanatics go visit people’s antique collections and make them offers on what they have. What they have discovered is people won’t separate from things they are emotionally connected to.
We do the same with our beliefs. If it’s something we’ve held onto for a long time, facts be darned, we will hold on to that belief for a long time. Emotional barriers will often keep us locked into a belief system whether we will willingly admit it or not.
Secondly, one study shows that most of us don’t use facts the right way. Facts, whether they strengthen our belief or go against it, are used as a subjective weapon to transfix our own opinion. In other words, we readily accept facts that reinforce our beliefs. That’s no problem. But if we are approached with facts that hurt our belief system, we attack the study, the scientists, the people who published the facts or cry, “bias!” We are passionate about being right and about fiercely defending our deeply entrenched belief system.
Thirdly, there’s a little thing called pride. What if we’ve been wrong all this time? No one likes losing an argument, much less finding out something they’ve believed for a long time is incorrect. Listen, I don’t like getting home with the wrong kind of toothpaste from the store, much less having someone suggest that I’ve been wrong in my belief system for the past thirty-something years.
I’ve had the chance to speak to people about eschatology in decent sized groups. I have a view that is not the most common view held in most churches today. It’s a very orthodox view and has been around much longer than the modern view. But when I talk about it to people who believe differently, and when I watch their faces contort, you’d have thought I slapped their grandmothers. I can identify with this because I used to believe like them. Sociologically, I now believe I am right. But any time my views are challenged, I’m pretty sure I have the same look on my face. We don’t like challenges like that.
So how can we make people see how right we are? No, wait.
What I mean is, “How can we get better at this? How can we open our minds without losing the truth? Can we? Is it even possible?“
I’m sure on some level it is. There’s a great article I found at Psychology Today that deals with this topic that helped me understand it better. I strongly commend it to you because it deals with changing other’s minds as well as our own.
What I’m really concerned with is this – how do we all get along? How do we co-exist with those of other beliefs, even when the things we disagree on are of major importance? I’m not sure I have the ultimate answer, but I’ve learned a little. I think we can disagree, point out places where we disagree and be respectful about it. During that time, we all need to respect the journey the other person has been on, listening to them and giving them a chance to speak. Each time we engage in a conversation, we don’t always have to have the aim to change their mind. We may just learn by listening.
Of course, then again, I could be wrong.