On Conviction

I’ve never held any convictions. You know, these absolute certainties about life and things in general.

I am 99.99% sure about things, a lot of things! But never been “absolutely certain” about any of them.

And that made all the difference.

XKCD on Certainty

XKCD on Certainty

By assuming you already know the absolute truth and hold it as a “conviction”, a dangerous logical chain reaction start to snowball:

  • First of all, this is the truth, the is the destination. If we’re here, why keep looking? Why ask any more questions since you already have the answer and it’s the absolutely correct one?!
  • Secondly, this is the truth, the absolute truth which simply means that all other versions must be wrong, absolutely wrong.
  • Since this is a fact rather than an opinion. Then other people’s opinions must be fictional lies and wrong by definition.
  • But again, why would you even listen to these misled lies. There’s absolutely no reason to listen to them or even acknowledge their existence.
  • Some people even take it a step further, why even respect someone who believes in these lies. Can’t they think for themselves? Are they too stupid to see the light? Do these people even deserve my acknowledgement and respect? Are they even allowed to exist?
  • As a good-hearted person, the most you can do is to pity their lost souls for being ignorant and un-enlightened. Maybe even try to “convince them” with The Truth that only you know. You might even get creative about ways to do it, as long as you’re guiding them to the right path, the path that you know and you’re certain about. The Truth with a capital T.
  • Opposite the popular belief, having a conviction isn’t a struggle. It’s actually quite rewarding. It raises you (and your ego) above the crowd. You know the truth, you claim the truth, you represent the truth, you speak the truth, your words are utterance of the truth, your authority is the authority of The Truth, you are the truth.  How fascinating! And how dangerous!
  • Ego and conviction are a weird mix. Conviction will feed your ego, then ego -in its path to survival- will start protection your conviction. You’ll start finding relief in having conviction and not asking any questions. Conviction, Ego and Relief. No questions, no struggle.

Next time you contemplate an absolute certainty, think about all the other people who share this attitude but with a totally opposite belief. Acknowledge their existence and realize one thing: You can never have a conversation with these people. Since they have their own convictions, that means they too aren’t willing to ask you, listen to you, nor respect your point of view. What a waste!

Most importantly, think of your thought leader, the one who started it all, the prophet of your cause. And just realize one thing: He wouldn’t have started this whole thing if he had the same conviction you have right now. Humanity wouldn’t have progresses so far without people who doubt and ask questions, even the hardest of them.

Personally, when I kept the 99.99% belief and dropped absolute certainties, I learned to listen to others, respect them and their point of view, acknowledge and relate with their stories, change my mind on a few matters, listen before I talk, and judge people less for what they believe in. It made me less egoistic and more human. It has been a struggle though. It’s harder to sit at the table to listen rather than preach. It’s harder to defend your ideas for what they are, not because they represent an authority outside yourself. It is far harder to be a seeker of the truth than to claim finding it.

As always, I write long posts to convey simple ideas. I guess what I’m trying to say here is:


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