The Power of Belief
In light of the new movie It, coming out this week based on the Stephen King novel, I decided to devote this sermon on one of the primary themes in the book: the power of belief.
Let me start off by stating a somewhat controversial statement: that perception and reality are always going to be different things. As evidence of this, think about how you viewed your surroundings as a kid compared to how you view them now. You have grown as an individual and had experiences that changed how you view the world. Some beliefs that you held back then have changed. There are no longer monsters living in your closet. The moon is no longer made of cheese. The reality around hasn’t changed, simply our perception of it. While we have since learned and experienced more to help cut away parts of our perception that are in conflict with reality, we have reached the point where we view reality not through a naïve lens (hopefully) but through the lens of our own experiences. It’s even been proposed that our language structure influences our cognition and world view, an idea known as Whorfianism.
A belief, then, becomes something our minds constructs, based on its acquired knowledge and experiences, to create a sort of model for reality in our minds. All models, however, are simplifications of reality implying that they are all inherently flawed to some capacity, but they can still be useful to help us in our lives. A belief becomes something our minds form to explain to the way that we choose to perceive the world around us. It is the basis for what we recognize as truth.
In times when reality and our beliefs don’t match that conflict arises. If others don’t behave as we believe they should, conflict. If someone directly attacks our beliefs, conflict. When the world doesn’t work the way we think it should, conflict. In these instances we have two options on how to proceed: adapt our world view to incorporate the new inputs and nullify the conflict or stick to our beliefs and persevere through the conflict. And thus we enter the realm of the negative side of beliefs. One of the most dangerous things that we can do is mess with people’s beliefs. There’s ample enough evidence to indicate that people are more than willing to give their lives in support of the world view that they have developed.
There is, however, also strength in belief. The reader may have noticed at this point that I’ve created a sort of circle: belief is based on our perceptions and beliefs influence our perceptions. Essentially, it’s a positive feedback loop. And thus we enter where it has power to influence our lives for the better. Let’s take the belief of karma for example. If we put forth positive energy, we will get positive results in return. Not only does this belief coerce us into being the positive influences we would like to see in the world, but it makes us more receptive to the positive things in our lives. Similarly, if we get hung up on the negative, we will likely never see the positive elements around us. This general philosophy may also be applied to our outlook on the world: if we choose to believe that the world is beautiful we are more likely to perceive the world as beautiful. Bad weather (apart from potentially life-threatening weather, not being inconsiderate of our brothers and sisters down in Texas) only exists because we have developed a belief that rainy weather is a bad thing. Furthermore, our beliefs form the basis of our values as belief is what we use to assess who we are and what we can do. We use it to assess our success. If we believe that working hard will get us what we want, it will build a strong work ethic.
A major problem that occurs in many lives is that people have developed beliefs in the past and have not invested time in updating them to their present stage in life. Oftentimes they hide behind them because they are afraid of facing themselves in the present, even to the point of blaming others for short comings. This is what I would encourage the audience to do: re-assess your beliefs to ensure that they match up with your life experiences, what you want out of your life, and your present state of being. In cases of a mismatch or a belief is holding you back, it’s time that you reassess your beliefs. When your beliefs and your hopes for the future align with a positive attitude, you have the tools you need to succeed. This, of course, entails one of the hardest things to believe in: yourself. In order to do this, you need to battle a lifetime of tumbles. Our minds are wired to use the belief of “I can’t do it” to hold us back in the interest of protecting us. This should be one of the first beliefs to be cut out, even if at the beginning it’s simply telling yourself it to counter this kind of negative self-talk. In the process of assessing your beliefs, be open to new ones that you may not have thought of before. This path, I believe, is the key to becoming the real you.
And hey, you never know when re-aligning your beliefs will help combat shape-shifting extra-dimensional beings like we observe in It.