Are You Sure?

IMG_1271I have probably read all of the “Peanuts” cartoon strips that were created by Charles Schulz, but one of his stories in particular stands out in my mind.  The character of Linus discovers that the summer camp he is attending is being run by a group with very strong religious beliefs that are very different from his own.  One night, he’s sitting around the campfire with all the other campers, listening to that night’s lecture from the group’s leader.  At one point, he raises his hand and politely asks, “May I ask a question, sir?  Has it ever occurred to you that you might be wrong?”

I don’t know about you, but I find it very easy to identify with Linus.  I don’t care what the subject is–something as important as religion or politics, or something as trivial as which local restaurant makes the best guacamole— I am always a bit uncomfortable around people who are so very, very sure that they are absolutely right.  Of course I understand that strong beliefs are not only okay, but necessary, as we navigate our way through this messy and confusing world.  But I think that we should always leave room for that tiny bit of doubt that keeps us from being so sure about our beliefs that we end up being caught in a cocoon of our own arrogance and assumed superiority.

When we are too sure that we are right, we become the people who know very well how to talk, but forget how to listen.  We become the people who want to silence those who disagree with us, because we are so very certain they are wrong and that their opinions are dangerous.  We tend to close our minds to new ideas, other perspectives and even out-and-out facts that challenge our views.

Personally, I have been wrong so many times in my life that I find it easy to believe that I will be wrong many, many times again. I do know what my life experience, my education, and my observations have taught me so far, and that has shaped my beliefs. But I also know that the longer I live, the more I learn, and sometimes new information presents itself that causes me to rethink, re-evaluate and sometimes even change some of my most firmly-held convictions.  And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Remember when the latest scientific evidence taught us that the world was flat?  Neither do I, because I’m not quite that old.  But the point is that we are making new discoveries all the time that are going to challenge some of the beliefs that we hold dear.  And if we’re lucky, we are also going to keep meeting new people, hearing new perspectives and gaining new understandings that are going to shape how we view ourselves and the world around us.  Life constantly moves forward.

I think strong beliefs and firm convictions are good, but they are even better when combined with an open mind and a loving, accepting heart.  Because none of us can be right all the time.

36 thoughts on “Are You Sure?

  1. I love this post Ann! It is always great (and difficult) to keep an open mind, but so important to remember. Also, Linus was always my favorite too (although my Dad used to call me Lucy…). Thanks for the reminder!

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    • Thanks, Kim! I bet that open mind is the product of your world travels…nothing opens us up quite so much as getting to know people from many other cultures. Which is why I love your blog. I learn so much from it!

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      • Wow … You know, I never considered that. You may well be right there, Ann. It probably is the travel. What about you? How do you manage to keep an open mind?
        Thanks for that lovely feedback too. I’m so glad you enjoy my blog 🙂 xx

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        • Sheer effort, I sometimes think! Seriously, I was lucky to have a childhood that bounced me around a bit and exposed me to different kinds of people. Plus, I come from a diverse family. So, while I am not nearly as open-minded as I hope to be, I am getting there, slowly but surely. But I know I have a long, long way to go.

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  2. Very well said, Ann. I’ve always had the sort of mind that looks at both sides (and the bits in the middle, too), so even when I don’t agree with something, I have a sense of what the other person is getting at and hoping for.

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  3. I too wonder about folks who have absolute certainty about things that are subjective at best. But since that certainty is often supported by a dogma that does not allow questioning, much less an open mind towards other approaches I guess it’s not too surprising. Especially if folks find security it in.


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  4. These are great comments. It’s very humbling to be proven wrong about something you thought you were so right about. This has happened to me plenty of times. It doesn’t always feel good, but it definitely opens your mind.

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    • That’s how I feel, too! It’s not always nice to be proven wrong (although since I’m a bit of a pessimist, sometimes it’s quite nice), but each and every time it has happened to me, it’s forced me to open my mind a bit and reminded me not to be too sure of myself.

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  5. I was just talking to my front desk mate today about the manager and why I feel she isn’t well liked and it’s because she doesn’t listen and feels she’s always right…just like you say here. My way or the highway. Maybe she has some good ideas, or tries to work for some of the people some of the time, but in general we get the feeling that she stomps on people and we are reluctant to go to her because of this overwhelming attitude. I have had to work on this myself…so I get what you are saying. Those of us with strong convictions and beliefs and LOTS to say, must learn to be good listeners. This was our own ideals become more well rounded and grounded and then people learn to listen to us even better! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, “my way or the highway” never does much good. Until we learn to really listen to each other, and respect those who are different from us, things are never going to get any better. Because we’re too busy protecting our own “turf” to really engage with the world around us!

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  6. People that refuse to open their minds to possibilities, or even to simply accept that others’ belief systems may differ from their own are indeed dangerous. I always have wondered how they get that way, so narrow minded and judgmental.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wonder, too. Somehow or another, they become too emotionally invested in their beliefs, and then defending those beliefs becomes more important than seeking the truth. But I don’t know exactly why that happens.

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