Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – email@example.com
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It’s great to be sure about things, isn’t it? If you have strong political, religious, or moral beliefs, for instance, decisions are easy and your path through life is clear. You can choose the right course of action and help others do the same.
Or maybe not – after all, Hitler was pretty certain about things, wasn’t he? And it’s not difficult to think of other strong leaders whose certainty led to dreadful results – and many more for whom it was, at best, a two-edged sword.
The trouble with certainty is that it implies that people with different opinions are wrong – they are misguided and therefore they need someone to guide them. And people who are certain about the right route can feel it is their role – their right – even their duty – to guide those who do not see things as they do.
If we translate this into everyday life, this attitude can justify all sorts of things – controlling behaviour, abusive behaviour, even violence – these can all emerge from the belief that I have a duty to tell you what to do, to show you the right way, to make you see sense.
So, what about uncertainty? We tend to see uncertainty as a negative character trait, don’t we? People who are uncertain are ditherers, they never get things done, they waste time, they are easily swayed, they have no personal integrity. The list goes on.
But there’s another side to this. People who are uncertain about their own beliefs are more open-minded. They can see other points of view, they are adaptable and flexible. They are more likely to be interested in other people, to listen to their opinions and to follow routes that please everyone, not just themselves.
So there are positive aspects to being uncertain, but too often people beat themselves up about their uncertainty. They see themselves as weak and indecisive and enter a downward spiral where a negative view of themselves feeds their uncertainty, and of course this makes their negative feelings worse.
I see certainty rather like armour plating. It leaves the wearer strong and safe – nothing can penetrate the armour. Remove it, and the wearer will be vulnerable – more vulnerable that most of us, probably, because they rely on their armour to protect them. And of course all armour has weak spots – a stray arrow can pierce the strongest suit and there’s nothing we can do about that. And another problem with armour is that it is heavy and cumbersome. It leaves the wearer unable to run fast, or dance, or eat, or make love.
If you are someone who is uncertain, you may envy those who wear armour, but it is worth thinking about all the things you can do that they can’t do. And I think it is possible to wear armour inside your skin rather than outside it. What I mean by this is that we hold core values and beliefs deep inside us, and those are the things that make us strong. We may not always be aware of these beliefs or be able to articulate them, but they form a strong kernel which can lead to a certainty – a certainty that uncertainty is a good thing.