What Are We Fighting For? Part 10: Believing Something Doesn't Make It True
Growing up, I had no idea that I believed in anything that wasn’t true. Starting with monsters under my bed.
Believing stuff that wasn’t true didn’t happen because anyone intentionally lied to me. Except, of course, in the case of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, which resulted in gifts and money, so I’ve willingly made peace with that.
Turns out though, a lot of the things I have believed at some time or another weren’t at all true. For instance, I believed everyone was watching me all the time to see if I made any mistakes. (Most people weren’t.)
I used to think if I failed to decipher what God wanted me to do with my life, I would spend all of my remaining days making up for it. (I was missing the whole point.)
I used to believe racism was a thing of the past. (I am SO embarrassed to admit that now.) Not only does it exist at all levels of society, I was unknowingly part of the problem for far too long.
We tend to believe things that confirm what our stories have reinforced. If shame is ingrained into our stories, we can very easily spend our lives connecting shame with our faith, our relationships and our self-talk. We say we want freedom from shame, yet we keep believing lies and acting on them.
Episode 22 of The Love Better Podcast features Cassie Anderson, who shares her story of growing up in a church community that equated spirituality with perfectionism. In an effort not to dishonor anyone through her story, she did not share details of the fallout that ensued as a result of those expectations, but suffice it to say, the damage was immeasurable.
Ideally, church would be the first place where people run to find authenticity, connection and belonging. But that has not always been the case historically. For many of us though, a lifetime of immersion in church culture (or any other culture, for that matter) may have taught us things we didn’t feel we could question.
If something is worth believing, it should be able to stand up to honest evaluation.
So many of us once believed things about God that didn’t hold up over time. For instance, many of us were taught that if we prayed hard enough and did everything right, nothing bad would happen. Heck, we might even get a front row spot at the grocery store on a rainy day!
But when a marriage falls apart, or cancer isn’t healed, or we have to walk in the rain one day, we conclude that God isn’t there at all.
Rather than walking away from God all together, imagine the relief that could come with simply admitting that maybe we just misunderstood some things about how His Love operates in the world. Maybe instead of throwing out the whole kit and kaboodle, we simply need to give ourselves permission to reexamine the things we’ve taken at face value.
Whether it’s matters of faith, or politics, or a million other things, it’s not beyond imagination that maybe…MAYBE…none of us is completely right, and none of us is completely wrong. Maybe we’re all just trying our best to get it right… and maybe we’re doing that pretty badly at times. And maybe that doesn’t mean God isn’t there. He might be very present in our lives, even in the middle our our misunderstandings about Him. And maybe he feels a million miles away because we’ve been taught to look for him one certain way that isn’t really how we’re meant to look for him. Maybe he has been misrepresented by people who were trying their hardest to get it right…people who don’t know they’re believing things God never said.
People tend to get testy when you challenge their beliefs. But if someone is so sure they’re right, wouldn’t they invite some honest questions? And for those who believe propaganda meant only to manipulate them or make somebody else rich, wouldn’t they want to see how easily that house of cards falls apart? Wouldn’t they want the chance at a belief system worth putting their full weight on?
When our beliefs are at odds with the transformational love Jesus exemplified…it’s time to reconsider what we believe.
In our experience, it takes a greater measure of courage to be willing to test our beliefs than it does to memorize some pat answers and out-of-context scriptures. Aligning the way we love with the character of Jesus is a holy and freeing experience, but it does require guts, and nuance, and not pretending we have the answer key when we really don’t.
Aligning with Love means continually having the freedom to hold up what we know against what we don’t know. And if we refuse to question beliefs that contradict the character of Jesus, it’s time to admit that our beliefs have become more sacred to us than seeking the heart and mind of Christ Himself.
If our beliefs somehow excuse exclusivity or hatred, or ignore systems of injustice that cause oppression, we need to consider the possibility that things we have believed may not resemble the truth at all.
Over and over again, Jesus encouraged people to examine their beliefs by saying, “You have heard it said…. BUT I SAY…”
If you’ve heard a certain doctrine all your life….
If ”standing up for your beliefs” means treating anyone with shame or disrespect…
If you’re afraid to examine your beliefs because it’s all you’ve known…
Just focus on what Jesus said and did.
When Jesus rescued an adulteress from being stoned by religious and political leaders of that time, he modeled how to value one another as more than the sum of our mistakes. That very interaction - which the adulteress probably believed she didn’t deserve - is what gave her the validation she’d been looking for all along, but hadn’t found because she was searching in places where that kind of love wasn’t present. She was trying to fill a void that only Eternal Love could touch.
We have all likely believed things that didn’t work for us at some point in our lives. But we can do better once we know better.
Imagine the explosion of connection and transformation that can happen when you’re able to identify the beliefs that contradict the love Jesus gives us…and let them go! As recipients of this great love, we are free to stop trying to fix each other and simply let love transform us from the inside.
Imagine the relief of trusting the overwhelming love of Jesus do the heavy lifting.
And, if you’ve been believing things that contradict the merciful character of Jesus, it’s okay to change your mind.