I'm usually a pretty cool-blooded person. But this is one topic that sometimes makes my blood boil. Right now I'm cool since I'm totally high on workout adrenaline. But anyway. The topic is cognitive dissonance. It's when actions don't align with beliefs, or beliefs don't align with knowledge. It manifests itself with the choice between exclusive principles - only one of which is based completely in the knowledge that underlies the relevant moral values.

The easiest example of cognitive dissonance that will strike a chord with everyone is that of food choices. I believe it's important to eat healthily - a value based in research and proven by time and prayer. I also know that I am hungry right now, and that nothing could satisfy my hunger better than (insert preferred junk food here). When I break my morals, I enter the realm of cognitive dissonance. All actions are predicated on beliefs... Which means that I actually don't believe it's important to eat healthily? What do I believe? And how should that influence my behavior?

Cognitive dissonance presents me with a number of choices. Either lift my actions to align with my beliefs (repentance), lift my beliefs to align with my knowledge (conversion), or continue on attempting to live a false duality.

What makes my blood boil is the most common, fourth choice. Discount my knowledge, whether spiritual or academic, and lower my beliefs to fit my actions.

I went to a lecture once on nutrition where the professor was supposed to present a "guilt-free" diet. I went fully expecting her to outline the latest in research and encourage listeners to follow it to the T. The only way to live a guilt-free life is to live by your morals, right? 

Instead, she spoke about the process of overcoming, ignoring, and subverting guilt. She encouraged us to eat as much dessert or anything else as we wanted, and to turn off any guilt that came from inside or outside. She felt that the guilt and stress that came from eating choices was more detrimental than eating unhealthily in the first place - but that actually eating according to a healthy lifestyle and thereby reducing guilt was impractical or too hard - hence she condoned changing our internal beliefs to align with our behavior.

Her research had at least some grounds. She was able to show that people who ate without guilt had less disease than those who did not. However, her "ideal" population was French, and the control was American. Americans eat more and have more disease in the first place. Ultimately, the lecture degenerated into encouragement to eat desserts with every meal to lessen stress and reduce undue guilt... and I left very much dismayed that she actually believed what she had taught.

I think that too often people look at life and its challenges and decide that it is too hard. Too hard to live the gospel, or to do what is right. Hence, what is right must actually be different in my case. It's too hard to love my neighbor, so that commandment doesn't apply to me, or it doesn't apply to him, or I can love him even if I refuse to speak to him, right? Life is hard. It was meant to be hard. It will only get harder. But that is no excuse to shoot for less than the ideal in everything we do... to cut ourselves short, discount our knowledge, and take the easy way out just because it's easy. I don't understand why anyone would settle for less than the best. Anything else has never ended up working in my life.

I look at my life. There are a lot of things I know through revelation from God. It would be easy to ignore them and follow the normal stream of life... to let others define me and to believe something other than what I know. But it isn't worth it. The things I learn by turning to God and following Him are worth any price. Hopefully when I'm faced next with cognitive dissonance in my life, I will lift my morals to adhere to the light I have been given - conversion - and lift my actions through repentance to align.
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