A pinch of sweet humility

Perspective

. . . and the way you see it isn’t necessarily the way I see it.

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When people make a statement and present it as a fact when it hasn’t been proven to be true, it’s logical that arguments will follow. When people share their beliefs as “statements of fact,” it’s reasonable that listeners not of their faith will feel annoyed and marginalized by them.

In my experience, conversation becomes much more pleasant when we share our thoughts and ideas with a pinch of sweet humility:

“It seems to me that . . . ”
“In my experience . . . ”
“Maybe I’m wrong, but I think . . . ”
“I’ve been told . . . ”
“According to [so and so], . . . ”
“In my opinion, . . . ”
“I feel very concerned that . . . ”
“My current understanding is . . . ”
“After considering the matter carefully, I’ve concluded that . .. ”

Would that we could all shed the habit of stating as fact our subjective opinions, beliefs, and unproven ideas! A lot of heated arguments might be avoided if we treated ideas as IDEAS rather than IRREFUTABLE TRUTHS.

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Let’s see this in practice!

EXAMPLE #1
“God came to earth as the babe in Bethlehem.”
(Unprovable. Too definitive.)

The Bible proclaims that God came to earth as the babe in Bethlehem.
(There is a Bible. It does speak of a babe in Bethlehem. However, not all Christians would agree that the Bible proclaims that Jesus is God. Slightly too definitive.)

I believe Jesus when he states in John Chapter 8, ‘Before Abraham was born, I am.’ I believe that he is God! I have faith that he was Yahweh come to earth as the babe in Bethlehem!
(Yes, the person is stating what she/he believes definitively, but he/she is not stating her beliefs as unqualified truth statements. Appropriately non-definitive.)

EXAMPLE #2:
The Republicans candidates are all a bunch of idiots.
(Unproven. Opinion, not fact. Too definitive.)

The Republicans are solely to blame for shutting down the government with their filibuster.
(The government may have been shut down. There may have been a filibuster. But did the Republicans deserve ALL the blame for shutting down the government? Is there more to the story that needs to be explored? Slightly too definitive.)

I am irate at the Republicans for shutting down the government! It was completely insensitive of them to put so many families at risk who depend upon their government paychecks to pay their bills!
(Yes, he/she feels irate at the Republicans. But did the Republicans unilaterally shut down the government? Were families actually put at risk? The statement that it was insensitive of the Republicans is more likely an opinion than an accepted fact. Still slightly too definitive.)

How dare the Republicans filibuster?!
(While the statement shows some personal ire, its being stated as a question does allow for multiple responses. Appropriately non-definitive.)

Now, to put this into practice . . . !

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Warning signs

It disturbs me that in religions of personality*, adherents have no independent means by which to judge the actions or teachings of their leaders. Everything the leaders say or do (or write) has to be accepted. “What have our leaders taught about this?” is the only test they use in determining whether something is morally right or wrong.

Would that clear warning signs would go up each time their leaders’ teachings or actions crossed the line from supportive/compassionate/beneficial to abusive/controlling/harmful.

The flags could say:
“Emotional manipulation”

“Unsupported claim”

“Condescending”

“Shaming”

“Double standard”

“Us vs Them”

“Unreasonable demand”

“Overly simplistic”

“Peer pressure”

“None of their business!”

“Out of context”

“Exclusionary and divisive”

“One-sided”

“Provincial”

“Unknowable”

“Group think”

“Threatening”

“Self-serving”

“Opinion stated as fact”

“Blind obedience”

“Anecdotal”

“Insensitive”

I worry that, being without this kind of warning system, people in such groups end up doing or believing things that are harmful to themselves and others.

I wonder if one way people can train themselves to avoid blind obedience is to regularly ask themselves, “How would I feel about these ideas if it were Adolph Hitler delivering them? Are these ideas worthy of my devotion?”

What other mental warning flags do we need, do you think?

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*in which “infallible” leaders are revered and trusted as the final word on truth-knowledge-divine will.

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How I respond to the idea that this is the only life I’ll have

I consider myself agnostic now. Despite myriad past “spiritual witnesses,” I now find no compelling reason to believe there is a spiritual realm or next life. (I believe those past experiences of mine can be explained by the fact that the human brain has an exceptional ability to find patterns. Whenever I came across or experienced things that resembled what the church teaches, my brain most likely recognized the pattern and confirmation bias would set in: I was “receiving a witness of the truthfulness of the gospel.”)

Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel peace of conscience. (If there is a deity, wouldn’t he/she/they/it know my journey, my heart–my reasons for disbelief–and not condemn me? . . . )

Anyway, after leaving the religion of my youth (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–“Mormons”), I have loved being able to serve in whatever volunteer capacities I choose, rather than having them assigned. Love docenting (being a tour guide) at our local art museum; being a spiritual care volunteer under the chaplain at the regional hospital; teaching the children in Religious Exploration class at our UU fellowship (ethical behavior, critical thinking, knowledge of world religions, etc); and serving as a support meeting moderator for people transitioning out of the LDS church here in Utah County! And since I’m used to dedicating a portion of our earnings for donations, I now love being able to use those funds to make charitable contributions to whatever organization, family, or individual I wish to support.

I’m not sure I’m more productive, however. I’ve suffered so much depression in the past that now, enjoying life is a huge priority. (Thank you, Wellbutrin, for mostly eliminating my depression!) I now spend a lot of my time talking (and smooching) with my husband, Erik, sharing thoughts on Facebook, strength training at the gym, taking naps, cooking fancy meals, tucking in my kids, going out to lunch with friends, practicing flamenco, enjoying long conversations with people I meet, saving money (aka “shopping sales”!), and experimenting with my wardrobe and makeup. Oh yes, and reading an occasional romance. 😉

I’m also trying to train myself in communicating more respectfully and patiently with my kids. If some of that rubs off on them, I think it will be one of the profoundest ways I can “leave a legacy” and “serve mankind.” (Kindness begets kindness . . .)

I’m grateful that a man I know asked a question today online concerning how people without a religious faith or belief in an afterlife choose to use this one life of theirs. More productive? Less productive? More selfish? Less selfish? Greater ambition? Less ambition? It provided me the impetus to write out these thoughts of mine.

–For those interested in viewing it, here’s a talk touching on existential angst which I gave at our UU fellowship last April: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34SXKFZ5cxg

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