How much do our beliefs affect our reality?
I know - really theoretical. But it was a concept I wanted to understand conclusively, so I went to the trouble of mentally breaking it down. Now, however, I'm thinking I'll have to revise my original hypothesis based on new data. Somewhat personal data.
I had to go help make dinner and eat, so I'll try to pick up my train of thought. The sun outside in the treetops and on the pergola looks like mid-morning sun instead of late-afternoon. I wonder why that is? It makes me miss my other backyard.
Okay, so - previous theory was that incorrect beliefs only affect your circumstances, because you will act as if what you believe is true, whether it's true or not. (I'm *this close* to hopelessly confusing myself, so if this doesn't make sense, it's not you, it's me ) But recently I have come to realize that what you believe inevitably affects who you are as a person. To the degree that your beliefs match up with reality and truth, your life will be a success; conversely, to the degree that your beliefs deviate from reality, your life will be a failure. Success = accomplishing the purpose for which you exist, and thereby having a positive impact on the world and people around you. Failure = falling short from being who you're supposed to be and doing what you're supposed to do, and thereby having a negative affect on the world and people around you.
But now I'm going to contradict the statement I just made, because even as I wrote it, I realized it was not quite true. The "to the degree" part is wrong, because although there is definite correlation between the truth of your beliefs and the success of your life, true beliefs can have a greater impact (i.e., pack more punch) than false beliefs, and some beliefs are more fundamental and life-altering than others. It doesn't matter nearly as much whether you believe in the existence of dark matter as whether you believe in the existence of God.
Someone I'm very close to (not initially by choice) has completely faulty beliefs in a few key areas of life, especially regarding the nature of other people in their life and the effect their own actions have on others. Although this person has some of the same fundamental beliefs that I do, other beliefs and fears have crowded out the basics so that this person no longer has a correct view of reality. Some of it is sourced in upbringing, but at the root is a refusal to consider that this person's perspective may be completely wrong. Multiple friendly discussions and even heated arguments have been to no avail. Any data which logically contradicts the interpretation of reality is either ignored, denied, or misinterpreted. This systematic denial of reality results in behavior which aligns with this person's preferred reality; however, since it directly contradicts reality itself, it wreaks havoc for this person and everyone around them.
Because of many factors, I have become this person's liaison with the real world. I take reasoning as far as it will go, but you can't reason a person out of being the person they are. You're too small for that. You may be one of many forces, messages, and circumstances directed into a person's life by the hand of God, but as God alone has the power to direct a person's steps and the scenery along the path, He alone can take someone out of their self-constructed world into the true reality.
I used to be so conceited (okay, I still am, but knowing is half the battle, and the rest is being fought). I used to think I could change people's minds and fix their problems for them. They might be blind to what they had wrong, but I could see it just fine, so I was the perfect candidate to help them get their act together. But it didn't work. People didn't believe stuff was true just because I said so. They didn't change their long-held beliefs or relinquish their mistaken pursuits (toxic relationships, anyone?) on my expert authority. You know why? Because I ain't no expert on this thing called life, and I don't got all the answers. And people aren't obliged to subscribe to my understanding of life any more than I am to theirs. What people are obliged to subscribe to is the truth. And that truth exists outside of me, and although it's my job to tell other people the truth as best I can, it's not my job to make them believe it.
It wasn't until I let go of my need to fix my person-of-interest and all the problems they were causing that I was able to have a good relationship. I prayed and left the outcome to God, and I started just trying to do right by the person, treating them as if they might be blind and cause frustrations to everyone for the rest of their life. And as I sought to love, and listen, and understand, and speak truth when I could, not only did my attitude toward them improve, but they began to listen to me more and more. And I've seen change - small, but it's there. Some of it was related to me and things I said, while some of it had absolutely nothing to do with me. This person is still making mistakes, and it still hurts me and people around. But I'm trusting God that change is possible, however much or little.
Anyway, the point was that our fundamental beliefs are part of who we are, the foundations of our soul. They don't exist objectively out there. They change us. Whether you embrace a belief in God or deny His existence changes you. Whether you believe happiness is found in security, physical pleasures, doing good deeds, or living for the God of the universe changes you. It changes me. I'm a Christian, and I believe the Bible was written by God to tell us who He is and how we need His help to change us from rebellious, self-serving, lust-driven creatures to become people of righteousness who are satisfied in our close loving relationship with our Father - the purpose for which we were designed. I believe God has a plan for me that He's working out in every circumstance of my life. These beliefs change who I am. They define me. I am an open-minded person, and plenty of other beliefs are subject to change or revision, but after seeing the way God has directed everything in my life to exactly this point, and the way He enabled me to do things that should have been impossible over and over, my belief in His existence, His providence, and His ability to satisfy are things no one can persuade me to question. I asked God to prove Himself to me, and over the past year He did, in so many ways, at so many times.
This post took several turns I wasn't expecting, but it seems appropriate to end with the words of Moses that meant so much to me last year. If you're not me and you're reading this (and you made it this far), chances are you don't agree with me. That's fine, as long as you're willing to concede that our beliefs cannot be equally true at the same time (because that's a logical contradiction). I'm not trying to make you agree with me, because that would be equivalent to trying to change who you fundamentally are - and not only is that not my job, but if anyone's going to do that, it won't be me. But I need to be honest about who I am, what I love, why I live. And this verse describes what happened to me last year that made me who I am today.
"And he [God] humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord."