Do we have a single, foundational belief?

I read a line in a novel recently where one character told another that “Everyone has a premise that guides her decisions, right or wrong.” In the next paragraph she went on to say “We all need a rule to live by.”1 Both of these lines caused me to stop and think – so much so, that I wrote them down.

I’ve thought more about that idea and come to a few conclusions. The first is that these could be two different beliefs. I think the first belief is one I created early and without deliberation. For some, this first belief could mean survival (emotional, physical…). The second I want to be a belief I choose. The first one runs the decision process until, with attention and energy, supplants the first.

It’s easy for me to project another’s foundational belief. I make those judgments all the time, and I know I’m not alone:

She always has to win.
He will do anything to be rich.
She only cares about herself.
He makes everything a joke.
She’s always cutting herself down.

I know what I am creating as a rule to live by. It is the Dalai Lama’s quote, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” This belief guides me to be kind to myself as well as others. The quote says, “be” — a word as important as “kind” in the quote.

1 The Merciful Scar – Rebecca St. James

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