What happens when a personal belief meets an irrefutable fact? The belief wins every time–facts be damned.
Human nature is such that we believe what we want to believe, and we don’t believe anything we don’t want to believe regardless of the verifiable facts. That’s the entire premise of an ideology, which is a set of shared beliefs that any group uses to explain its existence and way of life.
I am as I believe
What you believe is central to your identity. So if someone presents you a verifiable, irrefutable fact that negates a core principle of your belief system (who you believe yourself to be), you will simply say, “I don’t believe it,” and that’s that.
And if someone can distill that belief into a few words for you, so much the better. Try these on:
- America is the greatest nation on earth.
- The system is rigged.
- Democracy is the best form of government.
- Live fast, love hard, die young. (Oops, sorry. That is a country song, but a belief system none the less.)
- The white race is superior to all others.
- Black lives matter.
- All men are created equal.
- Might makes right.
- It’s every man for himself.
- We’re all in this together.
- Get a good education, work hard, and you’ll be successful.
- You can become anything in life you want.
- Winning is the only thing that counts.
- There is only one true God.
- God is dead.
You get the point.
A true believer, or a believer in truth?
A true believer accepts the party line no matter what. Every bit of information is cast in light of the underlying beliefs. All information contrary to the core belief must be explained and reexplained and reconfigured until it fits the belief.
On the other hand, a believer in truth will seek out information, verify it, consider that information in context of the situation in which it is presented and then arrive at a belief based on it. A believer in truth has no qualms about saying they used to believe one thing, and now they believe something different because they learned new facts.
I would rather be liberated by facts than enslaved by my beliefs. The most liberating phrase I know is, “I might have been wrong about that.” So, why is that not as easy as it sounds?
Psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson explain, “The brain is designed with blind spots, optical and psychological, and one of its cleverest tricks is to confer on us the comforting delusion that we, personally, do not have any,” (Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me, 2007).
It’s not that we can’t see the truth, it’s that we won’t see the truth.
Simply put, we lie to ourselves and believe we are being truthful at the same time. Why? It makes us feel good about ourselves–that we are right.
The paradox of the lie
We want to believe the lie because we believe we will benefit from it, even though it’s a lie.
Because we define ourselves by our beliefs and values, we flock with those most like us. We confirm our beliefs to each other. Then, we tell each other how good we all are and that those not like us are not as good as we are. Us versus them.
Yeah, we would rather believe the lie because we like the lie better than the truth.
The apostle Paul had it right when he warned Timothy, his younger protege, to be diligent about teaching, “sound doctrine.” He wrote that the time would come when people, “will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear,” to suit their own desires (2 Timothy 4:3).
The case for faith
Where does this lead us?
For me, it leads to fact checking and allowing the facts to shape my beliefs. I also must admit that there are some things that are not explained by the empirical facts that I know or have available to me. Therefore, I do accept some things on faith, my belief through personal experience that some things are true, but I don’t know why exactly.
And I will keep that faith, until I have facts that would compel me to believe otherwise. See how that works?
I do believe in the fundamental goodness of people, that we sincerely want to do the right thing as we believe it to be.
I also believe there are many
who believe in the truth and seek it relentlessly.
We tell a white lie to be kind or tactful, and because we are concerned that even a hint of the truth would lead to hurt feelings, or worse yet–retribution.
The dark side of the white lie is our need for self-deception in the first place. The matter we need to deal with is not the white lie, but the reason it must be told–the truth is inconvenient.
The paradox of the white lie
I can only speak for myself, but I know that I make my excuses to make me feel better about my lapses in accountability. I rationalize. I tell myself the diplomatic untruth about the poor choices I make and their consequences.
I lie to myself, but it’s well intentioned.
Until . . .
The ugly truth is unavoidable. It’s crisis time. What began as a way to feel good about my choices makes me feel like a failure. I decide the best way out is to take rationalizing to a deeper level.
Self-deception is living a bold-faced LIE
When my rationalization deflects the accountability from myself to the point that I comfortably believe my own lies, I have crossed over into the dark world of self-deception where I can now lie to myself with a clear conscience.
I can lie to myself about why my poor health, my bad moods, my lackluster job performance, my failing relationships. I blame others, the economy, my upbringing, my stupid boss, the government, or lousy luck–anything and everyone but myself.
The truth is liberating
There is another way out.
I can get real about my situation and start telling myself the truth–ugly at first, but my best hope to reclaim my self-respect and dignity.
Accountability for my choices is the one clear way to make things better for myself–to act INPowered. When I own my circumstances and resolve to make good choices, no matter how difficult they might be, I can live the truth.
The goal is to be in a place where no one feels like they have to tell me the white lies they think I need to hear to protect my feelings.
The goal is to be
Accountability is a 100-percent situation: either I did, or I did not. As the Star Wars character Yoda, said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Willingness is at the core of accountability.
I must be willing to do what it takes to get what I want. Otherwise I cannot hope to succeed. If I have all the resources and support I need, but lack the desire, I will come up short.
I will settle for something less than intended. The danger with that is that I will convince myself that close enough is the same as fully successful. Little by little, I delude myself into believing that I am doing my best when I am far from it.
How bad do you want it?
There is no aspect of my life that is not affected by this: work, finances, health, relationships, you name it.
Accountability is keeping the promises made to yourself.
Any promise I have made to someone else I also made to myself. I am committed to stepping up no matter what. When I don’t, I take the hit.
So I have to ask myself, “How badly to I want to be healthy? How badly do I want to grow my business? How badly do I want my marriage to be amazing? How badly do I want the respect of my friends and peers? How badly am I willing to do what it takes to make all that happen?”
There is no one else to do my part of the heavy lifting. Others might help out at times, but there is no walking away from the task until it is accomplished.
Be excellent to yourself
I deserve excellence. Don’t you? One of my tenets for living the INPowered life is to be excellent to myself. I am accountable for doing just that.
There is leverage and freedom in being accountable. Click here to see what I mean.
I am still learning how to use accountability to make my life better–to be more INPowered. I have renewed my promise to eat excellent food, and by that I mean more healthful food. No more junk food or comfort food as my main course. I also have renewed my promise to walk at least 12 miles a week. I deserve good health, and I alone am accountable for my wellness.
I urge you to accept my accountability challenge and live the excellent life you deserve.
I know that when I am more accountable, I am more