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Core beliefs are essential to our identity

Out On A Limb
Ross L. Talbott
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

I was scanning a large crowd of people and was struck by the fact that no two people among these thousands looked alike. There might have been identical twins, but they are rare.

What amazing process is at work in humans that forms personal identity as a foundation of our being? Why does each individual struggle to be unique?

The things that form our identities are many and unique. It starts with inherited genetics, which determines our gender, size, hair color and a multitude of other characteristics. Then our family and friends influence the sense of values and our belief in what is important.



Society at large, television, sports and a myriad of life experiences, subtly build and form our identity.

The core beliefs that we develop are critical to the whole identity concept. For instance, those who believe they are a creation of God will evaluate all things differently than someone who believes they are an accident of some natural process.



How we express our unique identity is a whole other discussion, irrelevant to the point I am trying to make.

Once we develop a core belief, it becomes such an important and foundational part of who we are that we will defend it, often to the death. If anyone challenges our beliefs we react defensively. In fact, challenging our beliefs is a challenge, and sometimes a threat, to all those teachers, friends and family who helped form our position.

In many cases, our profession is based upon those core beliefs. A challenge to those beliefs, then, is a threat not only to our identity but maybe to our livelihood. For instance, if you are a paid consultant to a politician and your views change, you must make some radical adjustments or be dishonest in your relationships.

Or, let’s say, you are a liberal sociology professor in a prominent university and you become more conservative as you observe economic changes worldwide. You’re trapped. Your whole identity is at stake. What if evidence surfaces that oil is not organically sourced but mineral sourced? Do you apologize to all your former students or do you desperately defend your position?

On the political spectrum today, we have many people who voted for our president but are now having second thoughts. This puts them in a difficult position. Their personal identity is threatened.

I guess these voters have two basic choices; they can admit to being misled, or they can thrash around looking for someone else to blame.

To realize and admit you were wrong is like having your intellectual clothes ripped off and standing naked before your associates. There are a bunch of coverings you can grab, but they are all transparent. It’s Bush’s fault or maybe the Federal Reserve or maybe the European Union.

If you are really desperate, blame it on the Tea Party. People who want smaller government, less regulations and lower taxes must be the real threat.

If you don’t believe in self-reliance, opportunity, behavioral consequences, personal responsibility or freedom, then you probably feel threatened.

A friend and I were discussing entitlements. He said, “If I don’t earn it, I don’t want it.” How rare is that attitude? If you embrace that attitude, you can stand before anyone and be proud of your identity.

That’s the attitude this great nation was founded on, and if we want it to stay great, we must rediscover that pioneer identity. If I don’t earn it, I don’t want it.

“Out On A Limb” appears on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. Ross Talbott lives in New Castle, where he is a business owner.


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