If you are anything like me, you often do not apply the universal standard of wisdom to yourself. You think of your case as an exceptional case. You advise yourself differently than you would somebody else in the exact same situation. Today I want to debunk four beliefs, conscious or subconscious, that lead us to think of us ourselves as the exception rather than rule. They are 1-) I am a god; 2-) I am a beast; 3-) I am too far gone; and 4-) Fatalism is the truth. These beliefs sabotage us in the long run because they keep us from making wise choices.
Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?Proverbs 6:27
Belief #1: I am a god
No, we probably don’t want anyone to worship us. But we believe we are above the principles that govern human affairs. And there is only one category of being for which that is true, and it is the category of the supernatural. We think we can get away with lying, cheating, stealing, lusting, treating people poorly, and making unwise life decisions. Sure, others reap what they sow, but we’re essentially different than them so we don’t need to pay attention. The problem is we are not supernatural. And we will undoubtedly live the consequences of every decision we make.
Belief #2: I am a beast
There is a second category to which wisdom does not apply, and that is the category of beast. While God is above the principles that govern human affairs, beasts are beneath them. Beasts have nothing to gain or lose from wisdom. The logic of instinct rules in its place. Good luck persuading a raccoon not to cross the street. Many hardened criminals embody this belief. At some point in their lives, they drew a distinction between them and the rest of mankind. In other words, they lost touch with their humanity. When this happens, wisdom gets discarded, and disastrous life outcomes for self and others are sure to follow. Reality is that we are not beasts. Wisdom has something to offer us, and to ignore it is to do so at our own peril.
Belief #3: I am too far gone
A third self-sabotating belief is the belief that we are too far gone, that we are a lost cause. It’s not the belief that wisdom doesn’t apply to us, it’s the belief that the situation is so bad, that no amount of wisdom can help us where we are. Maybe we’ve made bad decisions. Maybe we had a rough childhood. Maybe we’ve experienced the pain of separation from a loved one. I have news for you today: if you are reading this post, you haven’t reached the place of no return illustrated in the passage below. The fact that you are here is evidence that there is hope. Wisdom can and will supply the healing we need to move forward in life.
Because I [Wisdom] have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. . . [b]ecause they hated knowledge. . .Proverbs 4:24-29
Belief #4: Fatalism is the truth
The fourth and final self-sabotaging belief is a kind of fatalism. Fatalism maintains that all life outcomes are pre-ordained. Mind-chemical processes beyond individual control dictate every action, and every reaction, in the world of human affairs. We may think we have control, but this belief is based on an illusion that we are in the driver’s seat of our minds. Fatalism holds that human beings cannot change their fate, and are destined to live it out, for better or worse. I’m here to tell you that fatalism is not the truth. The choices we make matter. And the more wisdom we apply, the better our life’s outcome will be.
To be sure, I didn’t write this article from a place of inexperience or an a lofty pedestal. I have struggled with every one of the aforementioned beliefs at different junctures of my life. I can say that not a single one of them moved me an inch closer to the place I wanted to be.
Ask yourself which of the four beliefs, if any, resonated with you?
For more, see the complete archive of articles on integrity.