There are 6.5 billion people on our planet, all coexisting and doing their utmost to live a happy, healthy life in the best way they know how. Some are more successful than others as a result of location, heritage, chance, genetic factors and so on, but essentially no one would choose to live a life of strife and misery.
Within the enormous number of people sharing this precious planet, there are many different and varying opinions about “The Right Way” to live. Belief systems are passed down from one generation to the next, in order to protect the young, and give them a sense of belonging to the tribe.
These belief systems can be the product of geography, climate, culture, religious institutions, poverty, famine, wars, politics, philosophy, or tradition. It is natural to take on the belief systems of parents and peers, primarily for safety, and also because frequently, no alternatives are offered during childhood.
Humans have evolved into a creature that prefers to live in communities and cohabit with others that are similar. We are programmed to be attracted to and feel safe amongst those who most resemble us. We are thus conditioned to conform to the tribe, and as individuality is a threat to the status quo, we learn to modify our beliefs in order to fit in.
In the case of religions and country boundaries, this has culminated in many wars over our long history. Your God does not look or act like my God, or your country is better than or worse than my country, and therefore we attack or defend ourselves until someone submits.
This conviction that there is only one way to think about life, God, and other huge questions, to the exclusion of everything else, is very destructive, and to date does not seem to have worked.
Have you ever found yourself in conversation with someone who is heavily invested in being right? It is very difficult to discuss anything with them since they are more interested in getting you to agree with them than hearing what you actually think.
For these people, allowing other people to have their own opinion seems impossible. Was there someone in their history who was always right, and so they copied that behaviour? Alternatively, does the concept of disagreeing with someone frighten them? Can they appreciate that it is the opinion that is being rejected and not the person?
When I need you to see it my way, I am not allowing you to think for yourself, and I also think that I know the correct way to function / believe. I cannot possibly appreciate all the different variations on the same subject if my mind is convinced that there is only one way. As I let go of that notion, I can begin to see that there are hundreds of differing ways to approach the same issue, and all of them are valid.
On a more personal level, if you study your parents’ beliefs and then study your own, is there a similarity? And if the answer to that question is yes, then are you truly following your own path, or that of your parents? You are not your parents, and you are not living their lives. What do you want for you, and what do you believe?
Often when we start to examine what we hold to be true, we discover that our belief systems no longer apply to us, and we start to explore the alternatives. We are all individuals, and yet so many of us are living out other peoples’ aspirations and dreams.
As we begin the journey of self discovery and experimentation, we discover practices that suit our lifestyle and some that don’t, and gradually we begin to find our way. Many people say that what is true changes as they are continually learning and growing, and with each new discovery about self or the world, perceptions change.
Learning that my opinions and beliefs change as I discover new facts and other philosophies allows me to really see and appreciate you and your ever expanding truth. Everyone is entitled to their own set of beliefs, because they are an individual. They are also entitled to change their point of view and make mistakes, because that is effectively how they find out who they are. I would like you to allow me to have my own opinion, and therefore, I will allow you to have yours, even if I disagree with it. We can still very much enjoy each others’ company, whilst agreeing to disagree.
Either way, learning to accept other people regardless of their opinions can lead to a much more fulfilling relationship with your fellow man as you begin to understand that there is wisdom and beauty in all traditions and cultures. We live in a very different world today than we did one short century ago. With the advent of planes and passports, we have become a beautiful melting pot of different cultures and nationalities. This is set to increase with the displacement of huge numbers of people, searching for work and food as the climate changes occur.
Modern spirituality is very different to cultural and religious opinions, because it actively encourages diversity, variety, and change. It promotes exploration of alternative religious practices, other philosophies, and activities so that you can discover your own individual spiritual practice. It assists you to understand that we need to accept others because we are all a part of the human family and we are all the same at a deeper level. It encourages you to open your mind to other eventualities. Ultimately, we discover that we do not have all the answers, and that the realm of possibility within the universe is too vast for us to comprehend.
Being right means that I think I am better than you, and people everywhere are coming to see that we are all the same. Being authentic and speaking with honesty is preferable, and learning that you are ok exactly as you are, with nothing to prove to anyone will lead to a more harmonious relationship with self, others, and the planet. Not knowing the answers, paradoxically, shows the wisdom and humility of a mind that has explored, and arrived at a considered place of acceptance of self within the universe.
Written by Caroline Nettle
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