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{Written March 2007}

Catching up on a parenting newsgroup, I thought of a new way of looking at personal beliefs. We either hold them as our own — and keep them in perspective — or we hold them over others, and get what we deserve.

I love my Dad. He’s the best dad in the whole world.

Let’s look at this back and forth in two directions.

Did I just make a statement that is true or false? Does it have to be true or false? It depends on if I believe it as a personal belief or if I think I’m stating a fact, right? How old would you think I am if it was the latter? Should a belief about my dad being the best be more real to me at all times than your dad being the best? Can’t beliefs share my consciousness a bit, or am I lost in my own creation at all times?

Now turn the tables.

Did I just insult your own dad by saying mine was the best? If you were offended, what would that say about the nature of your belief about your dad? Or about your ability to know the difference between a fact and a belief? Are you confusing beliefs with reality, as if they have the same import? If so, maybe the belief about beliefs isn’t serving you that well and it needs reconsidering.

Back to the experience … Would you stomp your feet and push your belief on me that your own dad is the best and I am wrong about my own? Would I be accused of bias, as if it wasn’t perfectly fine to be so on my part, and as if you don’t have any of your own?

What if I hear you brag about your dad all the time, and maybe think he’s really cool, but mention my dad also has a good job, or that lots of dads spend quality time with their kids like yours did. After all, if you go so far as to try convincing me I should have had your dad my whole life, you deserve a reality check, right? I’m not questioning your dad’s greatness, but your own levelheadedness about it — a huge difference.

Another way to put it: Am I taking something away from your dad? Am I even taking away from your belief? Or maybe I’m taking away from a rigid ego-view of your belief. Do you have enough awareness to tell the difference between these three layers of belief? And if you can, am I doing it on purpose to hurt you or just keeping a mature perspective that other dads are cool too? Does it even matter, as if I’m responsible for how you take my words so you can play the victim?

Maybe it depends on tact on my part. Maybe it depends on if the person you are speaking with is so immature they can’t handle any ideas that might make them think — even in their own mind — that their dad ISN’T the best dad ever. Which isn’t even what was implied. It’s a little bit of both.

The point of all this?

People confuse belief with reality. Belief can create reality (sort of, sometimes), but when you take it too far or can’t separate a belief from yourself, you’ve lost touch. You start schoolyard fights trying to defend your dad’s honor just because someone doesn’t like him, or thinks their dad is better, or whatever.

One could take beliefs as the currency of consciousness. But all it really means is that people who are stuck mentally in such an economy are filthy rich with counterfeit fortunes — and they can’t realistically expect a decent exchange rate in anyone else’s world.