I’ve had great difficulty summing up my core beliefs, even with suggestions from friends and family members. Eventually, it occurred to me that I was having so much trouble because I don’t believe very deeply in anything. Several times throughout my life I’ve had what I thought were basic, strongly held beliefs shaken by events. Each time I’ve altered my beliefs to adjust to circumstances I couldn’t control, only to start all over again a few years later.
The biggest shock came to my childhood belief that my family was the most important thing in my life — a guide of how to behave and the one element that I could rely on in tough times. That ended when my uncle betrayed my trust and changed the way I thought about my family forever. I was still young but I was able to understand everything that was going on. My uncle committed adultery and as a result my family was torn apart. I had always had great respect for my uncle, but it seemed virtually impossible to continue to respect a man who committed such shameless acts. What made things even harder was the fact that my own parents seemed to be supporting him instead of punishing him. My three cousins were most affected by his actions, and the devotion I felt toward them sent me into a whirlwind of emotions. I was torn between my desire to honor to my family or adhere to moral principles I’d been taught. The conflict left me confused and indecisive. In retrospect, it would have been easy to side with my family and avoid hurting someone I’d been very close to for many years. This was a situation where if I based my actions on my original set of beliefs — in my family — I would have been letting myself down. The hard part came when I had to admit to myself that perhaps family doesn’t always come first. I chose to openly express the hurt and anger I felt towards my uncle, and thereby risked loosing a relationship that had been very important to me.
This wasn’t the last time that I changed a core set of beliefs, in my schoolwork and even in myself. These experiences have led me to the reluctant conclusion that a person, no matter what his or her most basic beliefs, needs to leave room for circumstances that can’t be controlled. Situations change, often dramatically, and sometimes from one day to the next, which makes it dangerous to adopt a set of unalterable beliefs. Perhaps it’s not that I don’t believe in anything, rather that I believe in adapting to the twists and turns of life. I’m most comfortable approaching every situation with an open mind. It seems liberating to me. The challenge of writing this essay showed me it may well be possible to believe in nothing and everything at the same time.
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