Think for yourself

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” – Buddha

It occurred to me while meditating on this wise counsel that we as a race have failed terribly on these points. This happens as much in secular living as it does in the psittacine rituals of the various world religions.

One of the more dramatic examples of this can be seen in the frequent repetition of the “Lord’s Prayer” by Christians around the world. While I certainly don’t fault and indeed respect their diligent reverence, I do have to wonder how many of them have read the context in which this prayer was set in the Biblical record. Both Matthew and Luke wrote about this prayer, though it is perhaps important to note that Luke was a disciple of Paul, not Jesus.

The context in which Jesus’ example of a properly framed prayer was recorded in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew as being:

[7] But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
[8] Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
[9] After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name…

“Use not vain repetitions,” He said, yet how many billions of times has that prayer been uttered automatically in just about every language spoken on earth over the last two thousand years? Not to pick on religions, the same could be said about science, culture, government and every other field of human activity. Original thought has given way to mechanical repetition. Fidelity to the spirit of the laws of being has given way to a bullheaded devotion to the letter of man’s interpretation of those laws.

It’s easy to talk about mankind in a general sense or in relation to the hindsight time affords, but what about you, here and now? On what basis do you believe in what you believe in? Do you constantly apply analysis to your observations? Do you consistently move beyond recognition into actualization and thereby live up to the highest and finest standard of which you are aware? Or do you content yourself with accepting uncritically the beliefs of others so that you will fit in or so that you don’t have to face feelings of inadequacy that keep you from stepping up and out?

The greater part of my life has been devoted to encouraging others to think for themselves that they might be free of the lemming state that keeps mankind bound in repetitive mediocrity. There is a risk in this, of course, for whenever someone is inspired but then fails to move all the way through into his own, he tends to blame and accuse the original source of his inspiration for the misery and darkness he now feels. Nevertheless, it is a risk I am willing to take. The benefit to mankind of even one person thus inspirited makes all the contempt and obloquy you will inevitably endure unquestionably worthwhile.

The biggest obstacle I’ve found is not in inspiring others, or in being inspired myself. Neither is the chief impediment for most in observing or analyzing. The stumbling block I’ve found to be most prevalent comes in relation to accepting and living up to those beliefs that you discover, recognize and have acknowledged as being consistent with the good and benefit of all.

There is a false and fleeting comfort which comes from blindly accepting the beliefs of others without thinking them through yourself. The mindless approach to living is a narcotic that can be hard to get away from as virtually everyone around you is likely addicted to it as well. That said, remember this: you may fit in, but a certain part of you – the deepest, most important and meaningful part of you – will constantly remind you that you have settled and sold yourself short. And that, dear soul, is no way to spend the precious days of your life.

16 thoughts on “Think for yourself

  1. David R

    This is an excellent seed bed for creative thought! One perhaps slightly side issue that comes to mind is the matter of inspiration. A little of it goes a long way, in the sense that words and example can be a spark, but something needs to be ignited that comes from inside, or it gets to be like running a car on its starter. You won’t get far before the battery is drained and the car chugs to a final halt!

    If we are ignited in our feeling and thinking processes, propelled by an irrepressible desire to assist and bless, we will want to learn the art of inspiring others – just the right word, the right touch, the right time for encouragement or discouragement for that matter. While the principles of inspiration remain the same, the artistic application of inspiration is never tedious or stale – always a revelation!


  2. Repentance.
    Recognizing deeply ones orientation has been flawed, and correcting ones approach.
    Something I have noted as problematic, is the tendency to take the outside in approach to change. (Which by and large has created the problem….everything’s upside down)
    Remember Always,
    Above, Down, Inside, Out.


  3. Chuck Reddick

    To me the one of the greatest gifts which we can provide to others is encouragement, in particular encouragement to discover themselves. Trying to be like everybody else does not go very far in discovering the unique and special greatness which resides in oneself.

    Thanks for this both encouraging and thought provoking post today Gregg.


  4. Sue

    As a firmly rooted Christ follower, this is one of my greatest pet-peeves, when people mindlessly follow and believe. So many lies, twisted truths and offensive rituals are followed b/c people do not spend the time to think things through and do a little research for themselves. And then, so often, they dogmatically defend their unfounded beliefs even when presented with concrete evidence contrary to it. I think it is a great gift when you can teach someone to slow down, breath (really breath) and just be. It is a good first step to being a thinking individual instead of a “sheople”.


  5. Coco

    I’ve have read the same passage in Matthew and wondered why some religions adopted this inspite of the warning. I’ve come to realize that most haven’t actually read it they merely do as they are instructed. As children we are taught to obey not usually to think. Looking at the world as a whole the phrase “failure to launch” appears to be the norm rather than “growing in grace and stature”. The immaturity has created our world that often resembles living the book “Lord of The Flies”. It is the responsibility of each to weigh and analyze but to do this it takes a mature heart and a mind willing to process information. As others have said, work. I appreciate your thoughts I find reasoning is never a wasted exercise.


    1. Gregg Hake

      I imagine we could do better with the education of children, not in the usual sense of book smarts, but in the sense of teaching them manners, respect and so on. Most caregivers try to paste these qualities of character onto children and they content themselves with the appearance of them, rather than cultivating an underlying sense of connection with the spirit of the laws that govern this aspect of mature function.


  6. Zach

    One thing I have come to realize is that instant gratification is never as good as it initially seems. Things that are worth doing are worth doing right, and those things usually involve work and some discomfort.

    It takes work to analyze a situation. Although you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel, you can’t take someone’s word always from start to finish without analyzing the thing to see if it fits in the paradigm that you are working under, or if you need to toss your current paradigm out and replace it with something more accurate.

    Truly living is an active process, and it leaves little time for “going through the motions”.


    1. Gregg Hake

      The older people get the more likely they are to become heavily invested in a certain viewpoint and approach to living. The real trouble comes when a belief is swallowed whole without critical analysis and then defended with things like confirmation bias. Belief eventually becomes an aspect of identity and when it gets to that stage, it can be hard to replace faulty beliefs because you feel like you are losing a part of you. Where there is a willingness to think, however, the errors can be corrected and you soon realize that change – especially when the change involves abandoning failed or flawed approaches and beliefs – is much easier than you might have imagined.


  7. Carmen

    You are so right my friend. The hardest thing that humans face during their lifes, is having the strength to live the truths that have been given to them. We so frequently allow fear to hinder or totally stop us from finding that great potential that resides within us all.


  8. Ricardo B.

    I cannot help but to think that prolonged depressive states have this very problem at their core. The impact that chronic stress has on the body is of the most damaging consequences it can face, literally robbing the life force right out of the person. Caught between external convention and the internal drive to be free, people who don’t reconcile the difference end up suffering to some degree.

    In my clinical practice, every state of chronic stress I’ve encountered shares this dilemma. I’m not saying it is easy to resolve, for we can get caught up in very complex webs of various loyalties and affiliations and conflicting agendas, but if any of those contradict one’s inner voice and limit original expression, there is bound to be inner turmoil that naturally then moves outward.

    I pray that I may find better ways to help others, promoting an inclusive philosophy of health and well-being with efficient and organized solutions. Those qualities I demand of myself. God knows there is enough confusion in the world already that it certainly doesn’t need any more. If my life is to have any merit and value, it will be on such terms.


  9. Kierney

    There is a place for zealousness and I think you’ve perfectly described here where that is – a zeal for living a life that is based in reality, not dogma or vicarious authority.


  10. Teryl Worster


    Thank you for sharing your meditations and taking the time to inspire others, myself included. This is time well spent on your part, thinking and analyzing and finding for yourself the truths as they relate the the world we live in. If we do stop to think, we can see very clearly the anesthetized looks on the faces of others and begin to see where we are heading for the edge of the cliff with the rest of the lemmings. I can see in my own life, how your wonderful thoughts, if read, can become valuable only when applied and actualized within my own living. You can often see a look of panic on the faces of young people when you ask them to “think” for themselves. They spend so many years in school morning and being spoken to, but not often truly asked to think. We all come from this monotonous march through childhood and are delivered into adulthood as a product manufactured on an assembly line. I appreciate your courage to stand tall, knowing that it is easy for the “tall poppies” to be lopped off. Doing what is right because it is the right thing to do, not because everyone else is thinking or doing it. I stand beside you as we’ll as I am closing in on 50 knowing that it is never to late to allow that one who resides within the opportunity for true expression in the world. Have a great day!


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