Are you standing for something?

Or are you falling for anything?

Thinking’s out of favour these days. Popular opinion’s that it makes one boring. “Just live for experience,” whispers our culture seductively in invitation. “Let life happen, and grab every moment. Why burden yourself with things that don’t matter?”

Unfortunately, anybody who gets somewhere in life can’t do so without a larger perspective. Living without consideration for the bigger picture’s like paddling in circles in a very large sea. You’ve certainly got your boat, and it may be floating. It’s just not going anywhere. Without a frame of reference to set your direction, you’re just a happy kind of lost.

Are you standing for something?

Today is April Fools Day. It also happens to be Easter Sunday. I thought the juxtaposition worthy of a challenge. So, I’m asking you to consider whether you’re standing for something. And, if you are, have you defined it clearly enough?

We live (supposedly) in an amoral society. Whereas 100 years ago it was “Do the right (culturally defined) thing” it’s since swung through “Do what you think’s right but don’t hurt others” to “Do what you damn well like!”

The concept of being free from restraint’s very appealing. We don’t like being told what to think or do. But the problem with our rejection of a commonly determined right and wrong is that now we’re open to every kind of opinion pitched towards us. People with less benign intentions than ours are exercising their rights to act as they choose too. There are lots of crazy clowns hoping we’ll swallow their particular agenda whole.

It’s impossible to live with no beliefs about right and wrong. We all still have them -they’re just not so formal or defined. Which means we can easily be caught out when the consequences of us not standing for something we value suddenly come into play. Or when we agree to something being right without thinking the implications through to the end.

If you’re not keen on falling for anything and then feeling a fool, here’s two realities about standing for something – or choosing not to – that I keep in mind:

Strong opinions rule

Firstly, understand that people with agendas are always more passionate than those without them. Groups with strong opinions get heard – especially when the owners of said opinions back them up with money out of their own pockets.  They buy our attention via advertising and media to sell us their truth. These days even news stories are biased, with people up and down the control chain consciously influencing and shaping what’s presented as reality. Be warned!

Websites which appear unbiased also fall into this category. Keep in mind there’s always another way of looking at truth, and even ‘facts and figures.’

If you’re soft in the middle, you can end up appearing to support something unintentionally

Following on from that, those of us with less strident voices can end up not heard (sometimes deliberately), or appearing to support something we only nominally care about, simply because we don’t express our doubts, ask questions or think for ourselves. Those standing for something strongly will happily assume, claim your support, then use that to argue for whatever they want.

You agreeing with only part of something winds you into this risk too. For example, I believe we should care for our environment, but I find it ridiculous that we now protect crocodiles, sharks and dingoes at the risk to human life. (I think we should manage these things.) Yet saying I wanted to care for animals once got me into a group claiming just that. (I took myself out, by the way…)

My point? People with a stronger, louder voice will manipulate you if you don’t watch out.

How can we (you) avoid this?

The two most obvious answers are: thinking things through for yourself, and then standing for something out of what you value. Is your family important? Ask about the consequences of what’s being advocated for families, whatever the topic under consideration. Do you value world peace? Check whether that loud voice is asking ‘How can we work together?’ or planning on annihilating their enemy. Be aware that for many strongly held opinions about how we should live, someone at the opposite end of the belief line will likely be hurt. If you value humanity, that should concern you. For although the implications may not hit you this time, eventually you will be affected.

Grid your beliefs through these questions

I don’t want to tell you what to believe – I’d rather you worked it out yourself. But if you haven’t thought about this much, maybe the following questions will help you:

Do you hold to any faith/belief system? If so, has your thinking developed in the past five years? (it should have!) If no, do you have any objection to others holding one? Consider what they offer, as well as the challenges you see in them. Remember, you have your own beliefs too, even if you haven’t formally defined them!

What are the five most important things in your life? Why do they matter to you? This is the start of your belief system…

Is it possible for you to have those things and everyone else benefit too?

If you’re standing for something, is it too one-dimensional? That is, important for a small aspect of living but lacking in balance over the rest of life. Is getting your way heavy in consequence for others? Have you thought about who’s negatively impacted by the agenda you’re pushing?

Especially if your group’s a minority, why should others listen to your ideals? And finally,

Where you have strong opinions: how do you value those who differ to you? We live in a world of 7 billion people -not everyone’s going to agree. How can we deal with that? War? Bullying? Remember, only the winners ever think war’s worthwhile – and there’s always many innocent victims on all sides.

Hope that’s given you something to ponder this week. Trust it’s a good one. For those comfortable to accept it: Happy Easter!