A Belief Policeman will spend far too much time squabbling over things that don’t matter just because they feel that other people must be corrected. If we’re honest, it’s because our ego feels a little bit bruised that it could be wrong or on the losing side, so we feel the need to inflict that same feeling on others. Like many various police forces, you are not creating the calming effect that you think you are.
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Open the Door! Belief Police!
Have you ever had that feeling that you just needed to set the record straight on something? It might not even concern you, and it certainly doesn’t affect your life. The other person also likely won’t care that much. But we just need to get our opinion into the open and make sure that others know our wisdom as opposed to their wrong opinions.
To make matters even more frustrating, there’s absolutely nothing in it for either of you except for your feeling of smug superiority. And yet we feel compelled to not keep our mouths shut and try to convince and persuade—you can’t stand the idea of someone believing something that you don’t, especially if it makes you appear to be in the wrong. The previous sentence is the credo of a full-fledged, card-carrying, badge-wearing member of the Belief Police.
A Belief Policeman will spend far too much time squabbling over things that don’t matter just because they feel that other people believe or think something different than they do and must be corrected. If we’re honest, it’s because our ego feels a little bit bruised that it could be wrong or on the losing side, so we feel the need to inflict that same feeling on others.
If you’ve ever been around a know-it-all or one-upper or someone who constantly says “Actually…” you know exactly who the Belief Policeman is in your life. If you don’t, you might be the member of the Belief Police in other people’s lives. Open the door! You’re wrong about something!
Whomever you’re speaking with, there will inevitably come a point when you don’t match up with them. If it’s about a topic that you have a personal investment in, it’s easy to get in over your head and try to win the other person to your side. You think, “How could anyone think any differently? The conclusion is so clear!” This is an easy mistake that will happen from time to time, and it doesn’t necessarily make you a member of the Belief Police.
But when this same kind of zeal leaks into daily life on inconsequential matters, there’s a problem. For instance, the vast majority of the time, this kind of squabbling occurs in places like the comments section of a YouTube video or the comments section of a news blog. When you scroll down into the rabbit hole, you will see people arguing over the smallest pedantry and nitpicking for days. Mostly, the arguments are between two people who simply don’t want to give any ground. Who knows how many of their waking hours they have been composing retorts to that nasty YouTube commenter?
They are trying to police each other’s beliefs, and to fulfill what purpose? Who knows?
But we are rarely doing it for the other person’s benefit, which tells you it’s all about your psychological needs or desires. These tendencies play out all the time, and in many cases, they involve issues that are of very little importance.
A Belief Policeman might be very effective at imposing their beliefs on others (or at least beating them into submission), but this habit is going to make you downright obnoxious to talk to and not in an affectionately obnoxious kid sister kind of way. People will avoid you. You will frustrate them. They will see you and walk the other way, opting to not walk on eggshells around you and ruin their day. Who wants to spend time with someone who makes them feel judged, attacked, and defensive?
The bulk of these arguments stem from the inner monologue of, “I have to show them I’m right and make sure they know I’m smart.” Of course, it’s a monologue borne out of supreme insecurity. Everything is an opportunity to show just how vastly superior your knowledge and experience are compared to the person you are conversing with, because otherwise, you’d be seen as inadequate and inferior, right? Instead of saying “Well, you could be right. You might have a point. Moving on!” you stand your ground and want to show intellectual dominance.
But at what cost does this come? And in the end, does it really matter? Do you believe that making others feel small is in your best interests, or is your goal really to alienate the people around you?
As a result of your psychological anxieties, you’ve unwittingly given yourself the job of patrolling other people’s minds, assumptions, and beliefs. It’s frustrating being the recipient of this attitude because you feel attacked, and it’s not as if they are going to change your mind anyway. It’s futile. So what gives you reason to think that it’s not going to be unwelcome when you do it to other people? It says more about you than it does about them if you feel the need to constantly interject your opinions and thoughts. Being part of the Belief Police is for your benefit, not theirs, even though you might be convincing yourself that you are seeking to benefit them with your knowledge.
Follow this simple rule to break out of this behavior pattern: don’t share your opinion unless asked. Unless someone has explicitly asked you for your opinion or is quite obviously soliciting your arguments as part of a debate, don’t try to convince or persuade. You can engage, but err on the side of neutral and understanding. Not every conversation has to turn into a discussion, and not every discussion has to turn into a debate.
This is especially true when it comes to matters of taste and opinion. These are completely subjective. What looks good to you might be completely ugly to another person. What sports others prefer or people’s favorite dogs aren’t to be meddled with. You won’t convince anyone to like chocolate more than they already do or to like beets when they hate them, so it’s really a waste of your time—and an extremely annoying one at that—to exert your energy trying to convince them.
Choose your battles and don’t fret about other people’s beliefs. You can’t change them, and a compulsion to do so displays a very deep-rooted insecurity with your own beliefs. Someone else liking chocolate does not mean your favorite vanilla is not just as valid. Turning in your Belief Police badge will make you happier and less stressed, and you’ll notice a direct correlation between that and the quality of your friendships and interactions.
Closely related to the phenomenon of the Belief Police is having a very black and white view of the world. Put another way, you only see one correct way of doing things, and anything that diverges from that view is wrong. And that way happens to be your view. This stems from the same insecurity of needing others to know that you are indeed smart and not stupid.
There are shoulds, musts, needs, and absolutes. But that’s not how the world works, and you certainly don’t have all the answers yourself. So others might feel that it’s a bit odd that you try to enforce your view on them.
This habit is particularly toxic because it makes you close-minded to the people around you. When you come across people who don’t fit the mold of how you feel the world should operate, you will judge them, sometimes to their faces. You will be prone to thinking of people only as wrong and insufficient, and they will respond in a very predictable manner of frustration, annoyance, and finally avoidance of you.