The courage of conviction…

‘They’ve got that completely the wrong way around.’ I almost winced as I read the article, completely disagreeing with the perspective that was being outlined. The basics were correct, I felt but there was something decidedly ‘off’ about the way it was being put across. I read on regardless, listening to the running commentary in my mind… then winced in good earnest. This time at me.

By what right did I think I could judge another person’s perspective? Anyone can challenge facts if they have better information, but this was not a factual piece; it was an article on an aspect of spirituality, which, by its very nature, deals with the unseen and unknown. I may have the right to disagree with a belief or an opinion, just as I have a right to my own perspective… but I have no right to judge another to be wrong on such a subject, no matter how deep my own convictions may run.

How can we know? None of us can prove there is anything beyond this realm. None of us can prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that anything exists beyond what we are experiencing right here, right now, with our own physical senses. And even that is debateable, subjective and at the mercy of quantum physicists. We cannot even be sure that we exist in the way that we think we do.

We accept that we are solid beings in a physical world where walls are impenetrable and water is wet, all the while knowing that there is more space between the particles that make up everything in the universe, than there is solid matter. Even though, theoretically, our atoms should be able to pass through walls, we don’t try to walk through them. Experience says it doesn’t work.

But we all know that there are things beyond what we are seeing. I know my sons are in their homes as I write. I know the dog is sleeping in the hallway and that the sun will rise in the morning. I cannot see any of these things, but I know them to be true. I have learned from experience, and such things are part of my image of the world that has been built over time. If I doubted that experiential reality, how could I move through the world?

When it comes to spirituality we are, by definition, dealing with things unseen and unprovable in any scientific way, yet as soon as we wonder whether there is a greater reality of some kind, we are looking at a plane of causation, something which affects and is an integral part of this reality.

We are faced with three ways we can go. There is scepticism, where we withhold judgement until and unless we find some reason to change our minds. There is belief, where we can choose to accept …or reject…a vision of reality put forward by others. Belief, on its own, implies that choice and choosing not to believe comes into that category. There is faith…trust, conviction, knowing…call it what you will. It may have, but does not require any religious affiliation or dogma, it transcends logic and simply settles on the heart.

Scepticism and belief can argue their corner. They are based on knowledge and reason. Faith is unreasonable, subjective, emotional, often illogical… and yet it can grow from both scepticism and belief. Faith ‘just knows’ and the conviction is so deep it permeates every aspect of your life and answers its every question.

And you cannot prove a thing.

You might very well be wrong.

The only ‘proof’ you can offer is how you live your life. How your convictions shape you and carry you through the trials and tribulations each new day can bring. And the trouble is that, regardless of the specifics of that faith, you are not alone. There are people whose convictions sustain them exactly as you are sustained… yet their path is different from yours and may not include faith at all.

So how can we judge another’s faith, belief or conviction when we cannot prove our own? As long at it follows some version of the Golden Rule and harms none, how can we say who is right and who is wrong?

All we can do is refuse the impulse to dismiss another’s belief, believe without seeking to impose our own perspective and accept that there is always a paradox… we can know with utter certainty, knowing that we might be wrong and that it is okay.

That, I think, is the true courage of conviction.

23 thoughts on “The courage of conviction…

  1. Or maybe we just need to rid ourselves of the mindset that includes evangelism and recognize spirituality is profoundly personal, that individuals are about equally capable of arriving at spiritual lives that suit them, that it is offensively presumptuous to preemptively assume the wisdom of our own spiritual convictions outside the boundaries of our own individual hearts and minds. I’m 74 these days and I have to smile at how many times during he past half-century people half my age have tried uninvited to persuade me of the rightness of their own choices over the implied wrongness of my own. So many times it eventually wore down to such as smooth surface as to result in only a quiet smile.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. We can share our views and beliefs with others, we can share the way we have travelled to get to where we are, we can teach ways in which to explore spirituality and express it….but we cannot teach anyone to be spiritual. Spirituality is a personal relationship with something that speaks to some part of us beyond the reach of words. Such conviction may be passionate, but how could we even think of evangelising if we realise we could be wrong?

      Liked by 3 people

  2. True words were written, Sue. I try to live this way, most of the time I think I succeed, some of the time I just shake my head, esp on a couple of written books that could be and have been tampered with through innocence or control. xxx

    Liked by 3 people

    1. We are never going to get it right all of the time, but trying matters. There are some books out there that just make me shake my head, but I have to remind myself that I do not know… I only know for me.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Interesting post again Sue. We are all individuals with our own ideas and concepts, no matter how odd they may seem to other people, I guess it’s a case of feeling comfortable with yourself whatever you believe.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I grew up in what I can only call a cult, where people drew vehement lines against even those who by and large shared the same set of beliefs, differing only on minutiae—to say nothing of those whose beliefs were further “outside the lines.” Trivialities such as how water was applied to a body during rituals, the exact ingredients in communion implements (all bought at “secular” grocery stores, mind you), or how people styled their hair were all grounds for not only hatred but claims that “those people” were going to spend an eternity in torturous punishment away from their Creator.

    The thing I could never figure out is how they all rectified their beliefs with the major teachings and principles of their own book:

    “He who holds hatred in his heart is the same as a murderer.”
    “Judge not or you will also be judged”
    “Remove the log from your own eye before worrying about the splinter in someone else’s.”
    “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    When it all comes down, when someone shouts to me about their beliefs, I ask, “Is it going to make you be nicer to people today, and tomorrow?” If the answer (stated or implied) is “No” … I’m not interested. I won’t try to persuade such a person to believe any differently. I can only say, “How you live and treat others does not match your written system of beliefs.”

    Regardless of one’s beliefs, I’ve never observed hatred in any of its forms to win anyone over to them. As you aptly noted, Sue, “The only ‘proof’ you can offer is how you live your life.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If we lived by the essence of that message, regardless of religion, I don’t think we would go far wrong. The trouble is that many profess to follow a message of love and still see only a wall between them and ‘the others’.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think I’m a permanent seeker. I don’t believe in nothing. I believe in beauty. And art — and how art in and of itself IS spiritual and for me, possibly the most spiritual thing I am capable of doing, Exactly what I believe otherwise has been fluid and has changed dramatically over time and will no doubt change again.

    I know very well you cannot prove there is a God any more than you can prove there is none. These are not things that can ever be proved. I’ve seen too much of the other side to dismiss the spiritual. It has touched me. I wish the touches came with a manual of instructions. I keep asking the air: “What do you MEAN by that?”

    I’m sure I will never know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure we need to know more than that there is ‘something’. As long as it speaks to us or stirs something within, we respond and grow. I’m not even certain I would want answers… the mystery is enough.

      Liked by 1 person

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