Inner Formation of the Heart
Part 7: Principle #2--Central Beliefs vs. Professed Beliefs
We need to make a distinction between what we say our central beliefs are and what we actually do. Consider Peter’s brave statement at the Last Supper of his dying loyalty to Jesus (Lk. 22:31-33) and comparing it with his three-time denial of Jesus in the high priest’s courtyard (Lk. 22:54-62). We can say one thing, and do something totally opposite. In some cases our professed beliefs have little relation to our central beliefs—which determine how we actually live. Note this analogy: we have a perception of ourselves—an idealized image without faults—that is in contrast with reality (we do have blind spots and faults hidden to us but may be obvious to others). Likewise, our perception of our beliefs (i.e., professed beliefs, what we say we believe) may be in partial contrast with our actual central beliefs (which also may be hidden from us but may be obvious to others by our words and actions).
A colleague shares this story about a philosophy and ethics class he took while attending a state university for his undergraduate degree. One of his classmates was an articulate and pleasant student. They had long discussions about ethical principles, integrity, and a good work ethic, all which she valued highly and for which she could offer good arguments. As final exam day was approaching the professor gave the class a list of questions for which the students should be prepared to answer, but only one question would be selected on exam day. Also students were required to bring their own “blue book” (assembled sheets of lined paper with a blue cover) in which to write their final exam. Exam day came and he shares how students were furiously writing responses in their blue book, trying to avoid hand cramps.
When he was almost done, my colleague looked up at the clock to check the time and he happened to notice this peculiar action. His classmate slipped the blue book she was using that day into her bag and drew out a different blue book. She got up, turned in this “bagged” blue book on the professor’s desk and left the classroom. Apparently she had prepared a blue book answer for each of the questions on the list to make possible a blue book substitution for the selected question on exam day. Cheating to get a top grade in an ethics class was more important to this student than practicing the ethical principles she could affirm and give good reasons to follow. Talk is cheap. Our professed beliefs do not always match our actual central beliefs.
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Next Musing: Principle #3—True and False Central Beliefs