Wednesday, April 18, 2007

When accused of being inconsistent...

This is a quote I heard recently.

John Maynard Keynes, when accused of being inconsistent, said, "When I get new information, I change my position. What, sir, do you do with new information?"

It was hard for me to understand growing up that people were allowed to change their minds. One day, someone might say that they wanted something - but the next day, they might not want it anymore.

I'm thinking specifically of mormonism. Once someone had gotten up in front of the congregation, publicly borne their testimony - it was a done deal. You have a testimony. You know "the church is true". So if the same person comes back a week or a year later with different information - it can be almost incomprehensible to some active mormons.

The world is black and white - us against them. There are no shades of grey - you believe or you don't. You follow all thirteen thousand little mormon official and unofficial rules or you don't.

I think we as humans are inconsistent. We should be applauded for it - because it's the nature of being human. Our emotions are inconsistent - one day we might feel content and satisfied - the next we want to throw caution to the wind and live on a mountaintop in Tibet. Okay, that might just be me. But it's safe to say that part of growing and learning (and continuing to grow and learn) is being open to new information.

Frankly - that goes for just about everything as far as I'm concerned. Some days I'm more willing to look at new information - new paradigms than others. When I've had a fairly stressful day at work (at a job I'm not particularily happy with either) that's not the day for me to investigate new ways of looking at the world.

It was really difficult for me to come to terms with mormonism as a half baked religion. When I discovered that some of the youth leaders drank alcohol (gasp) occasionally - or other seemingly well connected members played cards - it was just difficult for me. It didn't make sense to me how the same person could get up one Sunday and preach temperance hungover.

In the end, I've found I had to accept that just as I make different decisions - they could as well. I don't necessarily think it's right for someone to say one thing and do another - but in our society it happens all the time. It happens in the workplace where the manager asks the employees to work consistent overtime - but doesn't work the same amount.

I wish this wasn't the case. I would prefer that people followed through on their beliefs. I wish people who considered themselves christian would actually believe in love, service and not judging others. (Which is my own personal take on what christianity really means).

All I'm suggesting is there is no shame in saying - I changed my mind. That might be what I thought when I was 16, but I don't think that any longer.

It's also difficult as I give myself the freedom to change my mind, I'm also giving those I love the freedom to change their minds about our relationship. Or about their belief systems. As long as there is that fundemental respect between us though, that each of us has our beliefs and (hopefully) logical reasons behind those beliefs, then we should be okay.


Freckle Face Girl said...

I remember when I was in high school there was a fairly new convert that was overly pro-Mormon. He quickly became friends with my dad, who was also overly Mormon. A couple of years later, the guy did a complete turn around & suddenly my father practically despised him. I found the whole thing odd.

Obviously, I grew up in a family that followed ALL the rules. It was even strange to me to see Mormons that drank Coke or Pepsi (heaven forbid). That mind set does take a while to get over, but can be so liberating, right?

Anonymous said...

It can be. I'm glad you understand where I'm coming from. Thanks for your comment FFG!

Anonymous said...

I love the Keynes quote. If the worst thing I'm ever called in my life is inconsistent, I will consider myself extremely successful.

Anonymous said...

All religions change over time, fact! Just like science does and our understanding of the world. My wife has some uber-TBM relatives that won't drink Coke or eat chocolate, not that is stupid.

Anonymous said...

Thanks NN! I just find that people (like my mother) sometimes expect me to have the same opinions that I did as a teenager. I don't, and there are reasons for that. It's just a recognition that we can all grow and change throughout our lives.

AZ - The mormon church is particularily bad about not documenting things like drinking coke or a caffeine policy, so it's all hearsay. You'll find that the most respected mormons ignore coke and caffeinated sodas - despite any official documentation or policy about it.

On the other hand, I know plenty of faithful Catholics who won't eat fish on Fridays, despite the lack of official policy about that as well. If LDS, Inc. changed the soda policy, no doubt there would be handfuls of faithful mormons who would still not drink caffeinated soda.

Yes, all religions change over time - just as people do. What makes it harder for mormons is that they're also taught that the church is the same yesterday, today and forever when it also changes.

I don't envy their position.

Gluby said...

Wonderful post, Aerin. I think the worst, though, is when you were passionate and authoritative in what you believed before you turned around in your beliefs.

I've done it at least four times in life, one of which included going into Mormonism and becoming a judgmental, conformist, right-wing zealot, and the another leaving Mormonism and becoming militantly the opposite of what I was.

I recall, during our courtship, telling my innocent wife about the history of the 1960s in terms that now make me shudder.

At least I'm not inconsistent! That would be too much.