The majority of my posts are written with the intent of bringing light to different perspectives by discussing truths that are ignored or overlooked. Lack of exposure to these perspectives is not always the reason for this unawareness, though, as there are often more complex mechanisms at hand that shield us from these truths.

The process of establishing our belief systems begins at an early age and occasionally receives modifications over time. It is a complex world and we try to make sense of it to make us feel like our way of life is the right way of life. Occasionally, though, we will be exposed to ideas that contradict these belief systems, and this moment (I suppose you could call it cognitive dissonance) is very uncomfortable and vulnerable.

As a simple example, if you spent your entire educational career with your head buried in books, you likely convinced yourself that this is the prudent decision and all the cool kids having fun are missing a vital key if they want to live a happy and fulfilling life after their high school parties are over with. If you were the cool kid living in the moment, you likely convinced yourself that the straight-A student who never stayed up past 9:30pm (even on Friday nights) is missing out on an important part of childhood, which you are wise enough to recognize.

Who is really right, though?

The point demonstrated in that example is seen in all facets of life that are based on a belief system. You construct this system by yourself, and view people who contradict your belief system as ignorant fools living in the dark.

In a way, we are all ignorant fools living in the dark.

However, I do not consider this a weakness of human logic; it makes perfect sense. When we create these belief systems, it gives our life meaning and purpose, and without those two things it becomes very difficult to be happy. The truth is, both the nerd and the cool kid can live a perfectly happy life as there doesn’t exist one universally ‘correct’ belief system.

However, a problem arises when we do not accept that this unrealistic universally correct belief system may not identical to ours. Therefore, when we see that a peer’s belief systems as flawed, we often feel a moral responsibility to point out this ignorance, but seldom consider the consequences.

We wouldn’t believe the things we do if we didn’t think they were right – that applies for those around us as well. So while we feel we are offering insight, they will go through that very uncomfortable state of cognitive dissonance if it contradicts their belief system.

I was recently having dinner with a former teacher and friend of mine, and without getting too involved in the details of his issue, he had been the victim of some dark sides of human nature that resulted in getting fired. Long story short, it became clear to me that (I’ll call him Joe) Joe had convinced himself that the reason that he was the victim of this incredibly ‘selfish’ behaviour was simply because the people responsible didn’t know any better, and if they did, they would not have done the things they did. He had placed a lot of trust in people who did not deserve it (does anyone?), and like many, assumed that they shared the same values as him. Shockingly, this proved not to be the case, and voila, he was made the sacrificial lamb.

As much as I wanted to share my perspectives on human nature (which of course, I find to be much more consistent with the events that transpired), I knew that it would crush him. He had gone his entire life believing that others share the integrity that he does, and if he were to find out that this was not the case, he would realize that he had been played by the manipulative forces of the system, which was ultimately the reason for his disaster.

The topic of ignorance is bliss always comes back, and this time is no different. If he wanted to believe the things he believed, then I was willing to let that. I genuinely believe I would cause more harm than good by offering my views, however informative they may be.

You will definitely be placed in a position like I was, and while I won’t say that my way of handling it was the right way, I will encourage you to consider the consequences of bringing your peers into the light. Maybe, just maybe, we aren’t meant to see the truth, but rather, it is better to forge our own explanations for the inexplicable.

FJ

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