I have had way too much time to think lately while doing my typical lettuce-ing. My current thought ponderings have been centered around this idea: “What if I’m wrong?”
Let me explain.
I don’t mean this in the “what if I make the wrong decision?” or the like. I mean it more about beliefs, morals, political ideologies. What if I am wrong about some of the core beliefs in my life? The beliefs that make me then make other decisions.
Let me give an example: Anyone who has talked to me about gun control has heard me talk about how anti-gun my dad is. There’s no if’s, or’s or but’s about it. Guns are inappropriate. There is no need for laymen to have them. Period. End of story. This is the world I grew up in and the beliefs I inherited about the matter. I remember the first time someone showed me their gun collection after I had moved to Oregon. I was rather shocked. I didn’t even know what to say because my world view had been so subconsciously ingrained. This friend and I got to have a conversation in which I got to hear their point of view (purposefully being vague) and then, got to share mine. With my dad’s reasoning hardwired in my brain and enforced by media and current events, I rattled off all the reasons why guns are inappropriate. I left conversation feeling “proud” for hearing another opinion and more “confident” that I was right.
Now, even writing this out, I still think I’m right. But that’s not the point. The point is I could very well be wrong. (don’t mind me cringing as I write this…). And what does that mean for the rest of my decisions? I could potentially love hunting but because I will not buy a gun, I miss out on that entire experience. Perhaps I will be in a situation one day (God forbid) in which I need to protect myself from someone and without a gun, I will be killed. Or maybe I could potentially save myself with someone else’s gun but because I chose to not learn how to shoot a gun, I’m toast.
Now, these are very hypothetical and, honestly, highly unrealistic. But there are other ideas that have much more likely and much more consequential implications. The thing that scares me is what of these ideas have I determined based off my own understanding or derived from story passed down. I mean, that’s how racism becomes rampant. Stories passed along from generation to generation about the horrors of some great-family member regarding some (likely misinterpreted) event. Just like my dad and I with guns.
Or what about stories I tell myself about my past? There’s one memory I have that is a pretty ugly story. I told myself that it wasn’t that bad. I was being over-sensitive. This story I have been telling myself bleeds into the way I react today to different situations. Instead of setting boundaries, I live out of the story line “I’m over-sensitive” and let people do things I later resent. This is why I am such a big supporter of mental health resources for everyone. We all have these stories.
Or what about stories from society? One that comes to mind is the interpretation of Bible verses. People have come to pass down their interpretation and sometimes don’t question those stories or concepts. For instance, take “original sin”. Eve ate the fruit. We’re all sinful beings from birth. Done deal. Well… not quite. Where does it say the fruit was sin? And for that matter, it never says that the snake was the devil (Genesis 3). Those are conclusions that someone somewhere drew and now are commonplace. They may be right. But… could they also be wrong?
There’s no end point to this thought. I suppose what I have been pondering is how many things I believe politically, emotionally, religiously, etc., based on a story or stories that I was told actively or passively. And when I am outraged by racism or terrorism, I get to take a step back and have compassion for the racists and terrorists because they are only acting out of the stories they have been told. They think their stories are right, too. Scary, huh?
The other scary part of this whole idea is it’s not popular. I can hear some friends now being dismayed by what I wrote. It’s not comfortable to challenge core beliefs. It’s not comfortable because if I am wrong… everything can change. It’s much easier to stop questioning than to sit with my dad at the Hanukkah dinner, saying “dad, I support gun ownership. People should be able to make automatic weapons. NRA is great”. I think I would be exiled until at least Passover. Brene Brown (again, if you haven’t heard of her, STOP NOW AND WATCH HER TED TALK) says in her newest book that this is braving the wilderness: to dare to question the stories and stand in the authenticity of what you believe, no matter the cost. With love. With respect. With boldness. With boundaries. With compassion. With humility.
I’m questioning some stories right now. It’s not comfortable. But I will come out the other end and whatever I determine, whether I am right or wrong, I pray I will embrace the wilderness, not run from it.