My grandmother was fond of telling me that it is not what you don't know that will hurt you, but what you do know, that isn't so.
We long ago seized on ideas that we thought were compatible with the beliefs of our family and resisted all attempts to change. Once an idea is settled in our brain, we are going to defend it come hell or high water. We prefer hanging onto what we were taught as a child rather than trying to grapple with new ideas. Physicians tend to write the prescriptions and hold on to practices that their mentors recommended when they were in training rather than try new treatments and new perspectives on disease.
According to Adam Grant: (Book: "Think Again") "We become so wrapped up in preaching that we're right, prosecuting others who are wrong, and politicking for support, that we don't bother to rethink our own views."
Questioning our long held beliefs makes the world unpredictable. Generally, we prefer order in our universe. It requires a lot of soul searching to admit that what we grew up believing was wrong or that facts may have changed. Reconsidering or questioning our assumptions can threaten our identities, throw us off center or cause us to flounder.
While we regularly update our clothes and cars, our belief system is another matter entirely. We tend to stick to our guns or fall on our swords when it comes to what we believe. If you have been a Christian for your entire life, you are not likely to even listen to anything a Muslim, Jew, or Buddhists have to say. Are there only Christians in Heaven?
We tend to listen only to data (facts) that reinforce our beliefs, make us feel smug that we are on the right side of an issue, and avoid anything that may upset the apple cart. We are usually set in our ways and our thinking. We favor the comfort of our convictions over the discomfort of thinking about it, second guessing, and doubting.
Do you stick to your routines when your fellow employees are being fired? Do you ignore that the fact that your partner has become distant? Do you still stop to ask strangers where the Johnsons live or use your GPS? Do you remain quiet when your friends and family are abusive to others? Do you prefer to feel right than to be right?
During the last days of World War II, the leader of Japan called on all loyal citizens to fight a Holy War in the tradition of the bushido warrior code. All citizens were asked to die rather than surrender. "If the whole people will march forward with death-defying determination, devoting their entire efforts to their own duties and to refreshing their fighting spirit, I believe that we will be able to overcome all difficulties."
Ota Masahide, a survivor and Okinawa historian, wrote that Premier Suzuki distributed hand-grenades to the civilian population as the means to commit suicide with their loved ones. Those that survived the grenades "worried" about being found alive and found other ways to kill themselves with other weapons such as scythes, razor blades, ropes, rocks, and sticks.
Military propaganda had warned the civilian population that if they were captured, the Americans would torture, rape, and murder them. As the mayhem unfolded, they found all sorts of ways to kill: Men bashed their wives and parents bashed their children, young people killed the elderly and the strong killed the weak, Masahide said. "What they felt in common was the belief that they were doing this out of love and compassion."
Convinced that only the nuclear bombs could force a surrender, the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The belief in the emperor as a living God or the Chosen One, prompted many to die for him. On Jan. 1, 1946, when General Douglass McArthur forced the Emperor Hirohito of Japan to go on the radio and admit that he was just a mortal man and the emperor's divinity was a myth, rather than accept the truth which was entirely at odds with what they grew up believing, thousands of true believers chose mass ritual suicides (shudan jiketsu).
The big lie had been carefully constructed. The commentaries on the Constitution of 1889 said, "The Emperor is Heaven descended, divine and sacred... He must be reverenced and is inviolable... the law has no power to hold him accountable."
But the world belongs to people who adopt to changing facts and circumstances. Progress is impossible without change. We live in a time of rapidly changing facts and opportunities. Are you still holding on to you flip phone or have you adopted the new technology?
If happiness, prosperity, and living without regrets are your objectives, I invite you to let go of knowledge and opinions that are no longer serving you well. And if you cannot be flexible, at least be willing to rethink your opinions. Wisdom is knowing when to abandon sacred beliefs. There is joy in being wrong because you are now more enlightened.