I reason, therefore I am
Occasionally, I enjoy listening to a debate about a philosophical subject when both sides are represented by rational and articulate opponents. I can almost feel the logical and nearly infallible arguments from one side winning me into full agreement. Then when the opposing side has had a chance to refute their position, it opens pathways in my thinking that enable me to see both sides more clearly. It’s like watching a movie where one minute, the hero confronts the villain and by the end of the scene, the villain is now the hero.
What I have no interest in is seeing the debate degrade into exaggeration, name calling, or someone claiming their opinion is fact. Anyone who resorts to these tactics is likely admitting their views are not based in truth nor are they interested in accuracy being part of the discussion. They are simply depending on optics to convey their point.
We want our opinions to be correct. It is embarrassing when we realize we’ve based our judgement on erroneous information. Whether it’s our politics, religion, philosophy, or just about any other opinionated subject, the last thing we want to admit is that we were wrong, especially if we have given our word. It can feel humiliating to admit to our mistake.
I’m not sure why it’s difficult to admit mistakes. They happen all the time. Perhaps it depends on the gravity of the error or the subject matter. But keeping our minds open allows us the opportunity to seek the truth and that we are aware the need to be correct outweighs the need to be right.
As many of you know, the topic of shame is one that always piques my interest. Whenever I hear or see the word, my attention is immediately drawn there. Many of my friends send links to articles about shame because they know I’m fascinated in what is going to be said. But there was a time when my fascination with shame became a stumbling block during my progress.
February 22, 2013 is the day I fondly refer to as my “Independence Day.” It was on that day during my therapy session when I finally realized how much shame had controlled and also devastated my life. After walking out of that session, I felt liberated and began measuring everything I did on whether my actions were shame-based or not. The change was incredible. I didn’t hesitate to talk about it even if I had met someone for the first time. It was a freedom I wanted everyone to experience.
Soon after, I talked to my friends about it and some of them admitted they could see similar behaviors in themselves. The problem arose when my attitude towards how I faced shame became something I believed everyone else struggled with to the same degree. Without hesitation, I would point out where their shame was and talk about how they could overcome it.
It doesn’t take long for an outside observer to see how this behavior is rude and can come across as arrogant. Ironically, I wonder if there was ever a time when I did try to use shame on someone to “help” them see their shame.
Although uncovering how shame was a major roadblock to my growth and potential, believing it was the same for everyone else became an obstacle in my communication. It did not matter if shame really was a hurdle for them. It did not matter that I only had the best of intentions and wanted them to experience a personal liberation. Any constructive objectives were overshadowed by my zealous belief that I was right and they ought to see it my way.
All attempts at forcing others to hold your beliefs or arrive at your same conclusions will never work. The only fruits this kind of action bring are division and strife.
For one moment, think of a principle which you would never waiver or compromise on. Now, look at the alternative view, then imagine someone holding a gun to your head and demanding you accept that point of view. You may admit to it to save your life but ultimately, you will never acknowledge nor accept it.
Digging our heals in can easily lead to shortsighted behavior and incorrect conclusions. It may cause us to become guilty of twisting our reasoning and believing mistruths that blindly skew our perception and objectivity. It has the propensity to feed our ego with arrogance and the need to be right, condemning others with the slightest difference in outlook.
There are some universally accepted principles that we should all hold as true. Not taking anything that doesn’t belong to you, harming or murdering someone are examples of concepts that would get little or no pushback. But these are rarely points of contention driving wedges in families, organizations, communities, and beyond.
No point in contesting
There may be some standards or values which some people may fervently believe will never change within them. That is fine and I am not asking you to amend those. But believing that others must share that exact same view is a hypocritical position. It may very well be your belief, but that does not require its unanimous acceptance.
The kinds of things we take our stance on should be ideals that promote personal development. The ones which center around integrity, honor, and decency; principles we choose to become a more effective person.
The other area I zealously believe where our uncompromising behaviors need to shine is when we look out for the needs and rights of others, especially those who are vulnerable or easily taken advantage of. When we stand for them and risk our own welfare for their protection, it is always stellar character that ought to be lauded.
Showing kindness, compassion, and empathy towards others are zealous acts with benefits and ones that also will keep us from ever believing, “I reason, therefore I am…right.”