by Michael Mallows
I believe that many people,
including myself, are so often busy building walls to keep the world out that we
don’t realise how effectively we have built ourselves prison!
I believe, contrary to much of
the evidence and most of my indoctrination as a Roman Catholic, that people are
innately good, with an extraordinary capacity for creative and caring
I believe that we are capable
of small and vast miracles; miracles being nothing more than manifestations of
love in action.
I am also of the opinion that
my beliefs are simply my opinions about ‘Reality’. I do not have a hold of
Universal Truth. My version, interpretation and recollection of events may
differ from yours and that can be a source of enrichment and expansion.
Just as we choose to believe
this or that version, we can also choose whether or not we battle, argue, go to
war for the sake of what, after all, may be a limiting belief.
We can, if we choose – if we
believe we have the choice – we can explore ‘both / and’ rather than
insist on the limitation of ‘either / or’.
We cling, tenaciously, and,
all too often, argue viciously for the ‘maps’ - metaphors, assumptions and
perceptions – that have, thus far, been the template for our journey through
We ‘know’ i.e. believe,
that we are important or impotent, that ours is the only valid Reality, that our
opinion reflects the concrete and the eternal, that our words are the ones that
should be spoken, heard and acted upon.
We may never doubt that our
needs should be met, that our anxieties should be alleviated, that our feelings
should be considered above all and any others. When they are not, we believe
that it is acceptable, desirable and necessary to raise our voices, our hands or
fists, to yell, scream, sulk, pout, flounce, huff-n-puff, to ignore, stay silent
when we need to speak, speak when we know that silence can be eloquent.
If we believe we are not
responsible for our thoughts, feelings and actions, we blame our parents,
lovers, children, teachers, priests, reporters, journalists, the police, the
kids next door; anyone will do because, we tell ourselves, we cannot help
If we have been raised
according to certain religious and cultural dictates, instead of blaming others
we may blame ourselves for everything – our parents’ arguments and divorce,
the abuse, ridicule and humiliation we may have suffered at the hands of
inadequate, insecure, immature, callous, cruel or cold-hearted people. And we
may believe we have no choice, that we are fixed and formulated, like flies in
amber, like scratches on tablets of stone, like the immutable laws of some god
we have created in our own image, like prisoners in a mind set in concrete.
I believe we always have choice! We may not be able to choose what happens to us – accidents of time and place, happenstances of smiles, travellers meeting, promises made and not kept, trust given and not warranted, love offered and not accepted, or friendship proffered and betrayed. Yes, these things happen and there is much cause for concern, for wariness, for prudence.
Happenstances - events that seem almost to have been arranged but which are actually coincidental - may, depending on our responses, lead to harmful or foolish outcomes. The winning smile, the close encounter, may seem to be written in the stars; evidence that our 'Guardian Angel' or The Fates sent us down this road, round that corner.
So, with blind faith or an unquestioning belief in 'que sera, sera', we may not stop to think, to weigh up the pros and cons, to consider the options, or even to believe there are any options. We are spontaneously proactive when a prudent pause for reflection might serve us better, albeit in the long run.
But to live without hope, to
give up all belief in the human capacity to rise above the ‘basic’ instinct
for self-survival and to offer and expect, at least hope for a spark or core of
goodness would, I believe, make the world a bleak and frightening, a lost and
lonely place, as indeed it is for many, many millions of humans.
In the face of this harsh
aspect of reality, we witness, relate or hear tell of extraordinary acts of
random kindness and wanting beauty. We see or read about people being kind for
no obvious reason, except it was in their hearts to act that way.
We can all choose to act that
way, and there may be no reason at all that we should, except that we believe it
is a worthwhile way to behave towards other humans.
Of course, we may think it
worthwhile because we want to avoid being incarcerated in some hell while
we’re on the earth or being condemned to a hellish eternity when
we’re in it. Or we may think that
our God will reward us if we follow his instructions, and disregard logic. Love
and logic, clear and critical thinking, true compassion can be disregarded in
the name of any god. (Love thy neighbour but only if s/he shares your beliefs,
other wise almost anything goes with ‘my’ god!).
Of course we are all selfish,
trying to survive, to avoid pain or pleasure, to belong, to have our needs met
our cravings satisfied, our sufferings alleviated, our dignity respected, and,
at the same time, we are, I believe, co-creators of the world we perceive, the
relationships we create, the habits we run, the attitudes we bring (you show me
yours and I’ll show you mine!).
I believe we can make a better
world, shape a future that offers more cooperation and collaboration, invites
more compassion and generosity of spirit, teaches wisdom and encourages hope.
I don’t care whether I am
right or wrong in this, all my beliefs are (I believe) subject to re-evaluation,
revision, modification, updating. I don’t at all like the idea that our paths
may cross and all I do is argue for the beliefs I already have. You could be my
teacher, especially – only? - if you think differently than I do. Otherwise
you may only strengthen my conviction – and slam shut another door in the
prison of my mind.
If I have enough humility to
accept that no matter how certain I am everyone can teach me something, then my
journey becomes an adventure, an endless unfolding, a mystery to be explored,
each discovery opening new possibilities, new horizons.
Occasionally, I think it must
be nice, comforting, to believe in something with absolute certainty. Then I
think back to when I had the comfort of No Doubt. How arrogant I was, how
contemptuous of others’ beliefs, how ready I was to tell them how wrong they
were (and how Right I was!).
I doubt I will ever fully
outgrow that conditioning. I don’t believe it matters, really. What matters,
to me (at this stage of my journey), is that I stay alert to the likelihood of
being ambushed by old habits, that I stay present in the moment – what’s
happening Right Now in my head (thoughts), heart (feelings) and hands (actions)
– and what choices do I have? – and act on the choices, moral and behavioral
available to me.
I can choose to make war not
love, I can – and do – choose to focus on the problem or the solution, I
choose to think well of myself and ill of you, I decide whether to take the path
less travelled. My choices, my emotions, my actions will be shaped and largely
determined by my beliefs. My beliefs will filter my perceptions and shape our
Of course you are also
choosing, deciding, believing, and that will contribute to whatever we co-create
– love or war – but I choose and want to believe that I am 100% responsible
for my half of the equation.
Michael Mallows is a Management Consultant, Group Worker, Therapist, Supervisor, Adoption Consultant, Coach and Mentor; also an Author, Lyricist, Public Speaker, Team Builder and Workshop Presenter. [Click on any of the links to learn more about him and his activities] His website is www.mallows.co.uk and Email: firstname.lastname@example.org