How to Stand Firm in Your Convictions

It’s time for big transitions.  One big change is leaving home and going to a new town for work or college.  Starting new projects with new teams is another.  In these times of transition we need to engage with new ideas – to take on new perspectives.  However, taking on changes in convictions just to socially assimilate is unwise.  Unwittingly aligning with the majority view can often be costly.  So how do we stand firm in convictions which might already be wise?

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  • Do not take on the judgement of others

By judgement here, I mean contempt.  It is foolish not to let others judge us in terms of assessment and tests, but when they condemn us they have gone too far.  Growing up in a loving environment may not prepare some people to be condemned because of their views.  Republicans frequently have contempt for Democrats.  Democrats frequently condemn Republicans.  Atheists look down on people of faith.  The faithful write off those of little faith.

Receiving that judgement may be a shock and it may be devastating.  At the College of St. Mark and St. John, my professors mocked my views and obviously showed their lack of respect for me.  Our self-image, though, will be shaky if it is founded on how others feel about our views.   Sometimes we define who we are by the views we hold.

My undergraduate school professors praised and built up those who easily forsook their beliefs.  Which leads us to the next point.

  • Do not let others sideline your beliefs

To be intellectually authentic and healthy, work environments and colleges need to entertain multiple perspectives.  That means yours, too.  Colleges grow stale if they only entertain views they can already stomach.  Work places cease to innovate if they embrace the status quo.  Find an opportunity to colorfully present your opinion.  Let it be critiqued and compare and contrast your opinion with others in the room.  The discussion will frequently lead to mutual respect.  And when it doesn’t end well, the true hate and intolerance in the room might expose itself for what it is.

Some views will be hard to converse with.  You may need support.  Which leads to the next point.

  • Stay connected to the wise people whom you have respected

Before you arrive in a new location you have already been educated, socialized, and formed.  The people who have invested heavily in you are often as smart as the people you are about to work or study with.  Don’t let fancy titles or an extended list of qualifications fool you.  I am a college professor, and the more I study the more I realize my limitations.

Respect those in your new environment, but maintain the respect you have had for those in your old environment.  It is easy to stay in touch in these days of increased technology.  Text regularly.  Use FaceTime or Skype to talk face-to-face.  Share the new ideas you are encountering with old friends.  Let their wisdom boost your participation in the new environment.

  • Assess whether the new information you encounter is true

Truth is connected to reality.  To grow in truth is to grow in understanding reality.  There are many things that are real that each of us does not know yet.  However, there are many things we think are real that are not.  They are untrue.  In academic circles we invent new names for things so we can talk about them.  When we talk about them for a long time they slip into the common consciousness.  People then accept the unproven presuppositions in our conversations as real or true.  Test the presuppositions.

Science is not everything, but it is helpful.  Assessing with the senses and through common experience can be a first step.  The more people experience a phenomenon with their five senses the more likely it is true reality.  The more likely it can be counted upon.

However, there is knowledge beyond the senses.  There is reality that can not be proven in the lab.  True ideological foundations and beliefs are arrived at in philosophical and theological investigation.  Art and poetry are not really understood fully by science.  However, art and poetry communicate truth.  How do you discern truth in literature?  When do you accept an ideology has something true to say about reality?

  • Assess thoroughly why your behaviors are changing

In new environments our behaviors often change.  Old patterns and habits are not sustainable and new ones take their place.  Sometimes an emptiness creeps in because we have been too strongly shaped and formed by peers or parents.  At other times a suppressed desire to let loose comes out in wild partying and reckless behavior.  In most cases the patterns are less dramatic.  Maybe bedtime shifts. Maybe we start to skip breakfast and have a bigger lunch.  Why is that?

Looking at why we do what we do can often reveal our values.  Things we prioritize get done first, or for a long time.  Things that were important to our previous community, but we don’t really care about, get pushed to the side.  Be honest about what is going on.  Let it be part of your conversation and your habits will become more rewarding and meaningful.

***

In Colossae, the faith of the Colossian Christians was challenged by the religious philosophy of the majority.  The majority believed in following strict rules to earn acceptance from God.  They also believed in the occult and manipulating angelic beings to their own ends.  Paul calls them back to the faith they had in the beginning, which was faith in Christ.  He declares that good rule keeping is just a shadow of the life-giving relationship that can be found in Christ.

Colossians 2:16-23

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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