Do you believe?
It seems fashionable today to be snarky and cynical and jaded. To remark on how incompetent and incapable everyone else is. The current malaise of faith and goodwill isn't really current however: we've been putting others down since the time of the Greeks.
Yet, to borrow from Dr Phil, how's that working for ya?
At work, in our social and civic lives, even in our families we're tested by others. We can be disappointed, surprised even hurt. Yet, these same people rise to the challenge in some relationships and not others.
The sport team that barely plays .500 ball under one manager challenges for the cup under a new one. The laughably ineffective coworker consigned to the backwaters of work under one manager shines when a new one arrives. The child who struggles under one teacher blossoms upon advancement to the next grade.
The belief factor.
People sometimes say it doesn't matter what others believe about you but this isn't quite accurate, its a bit of jingoistic self-rationalization. Of course it makes a difference what our bosses, friends and lovers think. We want to confirm their belief and trust in us.
Belief and blind faith are not synonymous but without spending an inordinate amount of time in semantic parsing let's borrow from Maya Angelou and remember a few keys: people will tell you who they are.
- The serial cheat is unlikely to be good boyfriend simply because you profess belief in him
- Managing a small amount of money poorly predicts you'll likely manage a large amount poorly: lottery winners typically lose all within months
- Coworkers who don't display character under one leader probably won't under the next: it is what it is
Blind faith would have us believe in them anyway but that's not the gist.
Since most of us don't fall into these extreme patterns however belief in the innate goodness of humans can make a difference. Most people – friends, family, coworkers, partners – strive to be the best they can be pushing ever against average.
Life isn't about average.
Everyone of us has enormous untapped capability in the arts and sciences, in love and commerce. More that we can do when the conditions are right.
And while the responsibility for doing the work itself – being a good parent, performing at work, maintaining healthy relationships – is our own we can be fueled and energized by support from others at those critical moments when things look bleak.
Those inflection points in our lives when things shift for better or worse on a momentary turn.
Belief in others is the recognition that they have much to offer, perhaps more than we've ever seen before: its right there, attainable and within reach. And while this belief is not without risk on balance its worth the cost.
Cynics and pessimists pander to the lowest type of human behavior assuring us people will hurt us and screw up yet in so doing reduce themselves to that level.
But life needn't be lived on this level.
Believing in the people around you – assuming good intent on their part even when you periodically get hurt – taps a rich vein of strength and desire. Desire to reach our higher selves, our true selves, and be all we can in all the aspects of our social lives.
Belief matters. Belief makes a difference.
Believe in the ones around you, and in yourself, and life will be so much more than average.
For my good friend Helen Tracey