How many things do you believe because someone else tells you that it is true?

Let me give you an example. When you are a child, you trust people and do not question what your parents tell you. As you gain life experience, your parents are there to guide you and teach you how to interpret your experiences.

What do your parents base their teachings on? Of course on their own experiences.

I remember about twenty-five years ago bar codes were introduced in South Africa.

There were people who said that these bar codes were a sign that the world was getting out of hand, and some people were even adamant that the bar codes were “the sign of the devil”.

At the time I knew very little about retail management and logistics and computers. However, I was curious enough to find out what the reasons behind using bar codes were. I quickly made up my mind that they are practical, that it is a logical step forward, and that the devil will not catch me if I eat anything that was marked with a barcode.

I am sure you can think of many examples where you were confronted with a set of facts and discovered that they were actually a myth.

Did you feel angry at your parents or other role models when you discovered that they gave you false information? Did you recognise the information as their version of the truth, which differs from your version of the truth? Or did you reject the opportunity to ask any questions and hold on to what your parents or role model taught you?

I have learned that there are people who are so comfortable with holding on to what others think, that they will go to irrational lengths to defend their beliefs.

Of course some people are far more willing to break down boundaries in their thinking. There are people who will happily explore phenomena such as crop circles and UFOs. Other people will say that is a bit much, but they are willing to learn about discoveries in science which can be explained logically.

And then there are the people who simply close their minds, because they are too afraid to discover anything that may question their beliefs. This is quite OK if it only affects the individuals.

But when it affects other people, I often wonder about intelligent people and their motives.

I recently came across such an example where someone told me that a woman was “bad news”. I knew the woman in question and have only ever seen kindness and goodness in her. Of course I am aware that people have different views and experiences, and I asked what the judgement of “bad news” was based on.

The answer was “because my dad does not like her. She does not work.”

I happened to know that the woman was self-employed and not dependent on anyone.

Did this judgement come from someone with a petty grudge and a lack of judgement? No. It came from a man with a senior position in a large company, someone with advanced academic qualifications.

Did he ever speak to the woman to get to know her and form his own judgement? No. Why not? Because his dad taught him that “you stay away from people like that”.

This man is so stuck in his own moral judgement of anyone who is different from him, that he will do anything to defend his position, even if his actions are irrational. He is a perfect employee – despite his intelligence and achievements, he is a competent follower and will probably remain one for the other half of his life.

I wonder what he would say when he discovers that I am self-employed.

Author's Bio: 

Elsabe Smit is a professional transition coach, helping individuals and businesses to achieve their personal and commercial objectives.

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