On the Nature of Convictions

Inherently personally-held beliefs cannot always be shared

Good morning!

Have you ever tried copying someone else’s convictions?

There’s a scene in Miss Congeniality — great movie, by the way — wherein the main character is on stage at a beauty pageant, and all the contestants are asked the question, “What is the one most important thing our society needs?”

One by one, without fail, all the contestants answer in a heartbeat with the most cliché answer possible: “World peace!” The main character, answering honestly, gives her answer as “harsher punishment for parole violators,” making everyone awkwardly freeze until she, too, says “World peace!”

The dictionary defines a conviction as “a strong persuasion or belief”; although it is possible to change someone’s opinions through careful conversations, convictions are a little more firmly held, often fueled or inspired by personal trauma or negative experiences/observations. For example, someone who’s seen the negative effects of alcohol on a family unit might have the personal conviction to never even touch a bottle of alcohol.

People with such convictions hold onto their beliefs very strongly, and are often times unwilling to change just because new arguments or facts may have been presented; if you took new research and said that it’s been proven that a glass of wine at dinner once a week can increase longevity, you might be able to convince someone who has a weakly-held opinion that alcohol is bad, but you’ll realize that someone with convictions is going to be a lot less lenient in changing their minds.

But here’s the thing about a conviction: it’s deeply personal and inherently self-picked. Sometimes people try to take on someone else’s convictions because they perceive it as “noble”, but it’s not genuine because there’s no depth of experience behind their opinion. For example, I have a friend who has lived in Israel and has experienced bombs and explosions and the destructive nature of human violence and war; when she says she wishes for world peace, it means a lot more than when someone such as myself — who has only ever known peace, and the most violence I’ve experienced was verbal bullying — tries to copy the conviction; if I said I wish for world peace, it would be a statement that is empty of meaning, void of conviction, without any real substance, as there’s no trauma or personal experience behind the statement, and it’s inherently disingenuine.

Moreover, sometimes people try to shove their convictions onto other people, as is often the case with religion (unfortunately); someone might hold the personal conviction that an unmarried man and woman should never be in a car driving alone, which is fine, and actually quite neat in terms of being above reproach, but when said person tries to push their convictions onto someone else, they will face major pushback, as the person they’re trying to influence is likely to resist. Because the person might never have experienced being cheated on and/or has only heard stories but has never personally known someone that went through that trauma, they are unlikely to have a grounding for that conviction, and therefore it simply won’t stick.

TL;DR: In order for convictions to be genuine, they must be inherently personal and chosen by the individual; individuals can neither take on someone else’s convictions nor try to hand their convictions off to someone else.

God bless you, have a great day!