I used to say “it depends” a lot. I used this response as a gray area where I could go to justify the exceptions to the rules I believed in. However, I’m realizing now that this means that I don’t truly believe what I think I believe.
If I say that I believe what we feel comes from the inside rather than the outside and yet one day someone does something and I blame her for what she’s done, I’m showing that what I really believe is that feelings are caused by things outside myself.
If I say that working out is very important to me and that I would like to work out four times per day, for instance, but I only work out a couple of times per week, my actions show that I don’t believe that working out is as important to me as I say it is.
My excuses tell me that I don’t believe what I say I believe.
If I really believe something, I should be able to apply or act based on my beliefs in every situation. There are no differences among situations. If I think there is room for different actions in different situations, then what I really believe is the opposite of what I say I believe.
Let me give you an example: I’ve read that the part of our brain that is in charge of regulating our emotions and body (the cerebral neocortex) isn’t fully formed until a person reaches his mid-twenties. When I read that, I believed it. Or, that’s what I thought.
Fortunately, I have a five-year-old son who helps me test my beliefs. Because of his age, his neocortex still has a way to go to be fully developed. That means he cannot regulate his behavior when he’s overwhelmed by emotions. It also means that if I believe that he can’t regulate his emotions (it’s not his fault) because of the stage of his brain development, then I should be patient with his behavior or at least not blame him for it.
Well, I’m not always patient with his behavior. And because that’s not ALWAYS the case, I know I don’t fully believe that he can’t regulate his behavior. There are situations in which his behavior triggers my anger and I blame him for what he has done. Those situations show me that what I really believe is that he can regulate his behavior but is choosing not to. That’s where I am right now, even if I tell myself something different.
It’s all or nothing: either my beliefs apply to every situation or I prove that I don’t believe my own beliefs. Period.
This “all-or-nothing” philosophy is helping me realize my real beliefs. It’s helping me see what I really believe instead of what I tell myself I believe.