“Whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so sure of themselves, and wiser people are full of doubts”
One of the most important traits in life is self examination. Self examination takes objectivity and humility. The ability to stop and to ask your self why you believe a certain thing is critical. The ability to ask yourself why you behave a certain way is even more critical. Humans have core beliefs. These core beliefs become entrenched in our psyche from birth. Challenging them is a very scary proposition.
Honest self examination takes objectivity. Humans are notoriously bad at being unbiased. It is in our very nature to be biased. Consciousness is biased by definition. Philosophers still argue about whether true objectivity is even possible http://forums.intpcentral.com/showthread.php?2620-Is-objectivity-possible. I do not think it is possible. Everything from our political views to our view of our own abilities is biased. Humans are great at lying to ourselves. We are most biased when we automatically presume ourselves to be objective. Not many people are willing to admit to themselves that their religious, political beliefs, and views on life are greatly influenced by their environment.
Self examination takes humility. It is very humbling to admit to yourself that you are wrong. I have had to admit that I was wrong many times. But the more I do it, the easier it becomes. I accept the fact that i am still trying to figure out this blue marble in the middle of space called earth. Examining the reasons for my insecurities is very humbling. Examining my physical and mental limitations is also humbling. This is why humility is necessary for honest self examination. I find myself greatly modifying my views on politics, life and love every 9 months or so. It is alright to not have it all figured out. It is always humbling to realize that didn’t know anything about life when i was 18 yrs old( but i thought i did). I still don’t know shit 10 years later. The more I learn the less i know.
Life is extremely complex. Anyone who says that they have the definitive answer on anything is lying. I have learned that listening to those that disagree with you is a sure path to gaining wisdom. One can find truth in every argument. Taking honest criticism is another path to wisdom. A true friend is invaluable because they offer that unbiased examination of me. This unbiased self examination by my true friends has changed my life for the better even though it hurts at the time. The more something hurts, the more truth it holds. It is like exercise. You start feeling the burn because it is working. The most self destructive people are the people that have no one to give them honest criticism.
I often wonder would atrocities be committed if people had an honest self examination of their motives? Would the tutsi’s and hutu fought if they had stopped and objectively examined their motivations for violence? Would bigotry still exist? Would Nazi supporters during WW2 have still supported the regime if they took time to objectively analyze their motivations? Would there be any evil in the world if people where objective in their self examination? Maybe self examination is too scary. It might uncover too many hard truths about ourselves that we would rather leave hidden.