Saturday, July 21, 2012

Beliefs and Quality of Life

There is an old chinese proverb something to the effect of "If you have an equal choice to interpret something as bad or as good, you're better off to interpret it as good." I believe the reasoning is that if you interpret something as bad and carry around those negative feelings and fears of it, then you live with those bad feelings. If you interpret something as good, then you carry around those feelings and hopes instead. Which would you rather have in your life?

I heard through the grapevine that a friend of mine said something about me. It could have been taken as either bad or good, depending on the context. I was faced with a choice: Do I believe he meant it in ill and get mad, and carry that with me until I could see him again or ask him about it? Or do I assume that he meant it in a good context, and carry gratitude and appreciation in my heart? I chose the later. I figured I could always get mad in a second if I needed to, but I could never get back that moment of gratitude and peace that I would miss if I got mad then. I really didn't have the facts, so would good would it do me to get defensive, accusatory, or worse? It would only block my judgement, cause internal suffering, and perhaps even create bad feelings between us. As it turns out, it was worth making the choice to feel good about it, because he explained the context, and it was a complement. That is, if he was telling me the truth. So do I choose to believe him, or choose to not believe him? Again, do I want to live in fear or in peace? It could be an endless cycle. Guess what choice I made.

Was I being naive? What if he hurt me? What if he lied to me? What if, what if, what if? I have to believe my choice of friends isn't that off that I would hang around people who would intentionally lie, slander, or cheat me. If that were the case, I'd have bigger problems. I've found that over time I do learn the character of the people I hang around, and that is also comforting. Time will tell, and time does tell.

That leads to my faith in humanity. Do people really want to do the "right" thing? Are people basically "good"? I reflect back to my previous thoughts, about choosing to believe in good over bad. That doesn't mean I won't make a mistake in judgment, or that everyone is perfect, or that we all agree what the "right" thing even is. However, I choose to believe that most people do value human life, and care about others, and want to feel good about themselves and others.

Why do I qualify that with "most"? I used to believe the world was a safe place, until I had a really bad experience with someone who was psychopathic. The person's goal was to hurt others, ruin a family, destroy relationships, spread hate and discontent. While talking to a psychologist about the experience, he asked me why I thought the world was a safe in the first place? He began to point out recent events, local events, and a book on his desk with a load of psychological diagnoses. I realized that to live in absolutes would mean I was being naive, so I needed to walk toward the middle, not just swing the other way in reaction. So I settled on "most". I choose to believe that "most" people are good. What is your choice?

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