This I Believe

William - Denver, Colorado
Entered on January 16, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: change, question

My beliefs have changed over time. When I was a child, my beliefs were shaped by my father, who demonstrated, through his example, the importance of honesty, hard work, and independent thought. At that time, I accepted my father’s politically conservative views at face value. As a young man I had a very libertarian, pro-business philosophy of life.

In college my beliefs were influenced by difficult social experiences. The college I attended had a rigid social hierarchy which made it difficult, my first two years, to find a social niche. My junior year I joined a small, stable community within the college, which made my experience as a student much more enjoyable. In law school I experienced an open, inclusive social environment where people freely interacted, and where independent, rational thought was encouraged. Through these experiences I learned the personal value of belonging to a healthy, vibrant student community, and became more aware of the importance of lifelong learning.

As a young practicing attorney, I learned to think critically and objectively, based on the facts. I no longer accepted the beliefs of my father, or anyone else, without questioning the underlying basis for those beliefs. I became wary of dogmatic, fixed opinions. I realized that unsupported opinion and dogma hamper effective decision making, and that people often make poor decisions because they have held an incorrect position for a long time and can no longer adjust their views. I believe it is important to change your opinion as soon as you realize you are wrong.

My evolution from a person with predictable, conservative beliefs to someone who carefully evaluates what others are saying occasionally frustrates my family. Every year my wife and I attend a family reunion at the beach. My oldest brother and my brother-in-law are conservative, politically and socially, which occasionally results in spirited debate. My brother wants me to agree with him but gets frustrated when I challenge his opinions. My family has slowly learned to accept my less conservative views. I think my questioning manner has moderated the more extreme opinions of my father and brother.

After careful thought, I no longer think of myself as separate from the society I live in. I believe the quality of my life is impacted by the health and welfare of my community and country. I believe that efforts to help the community benefit me, indirectly, by making the community a better place to live. I believe it is important to evaluate all problems — political, social, and personal — in an honest, objective way, unhampered by extreme views or ideology. I believe it is important for people to continue learning so they can make better decisions, and can question and adjust their opinions accordingly.

This I believe.