Posted by: Don Linnen | 31 July 2018


We all love confidence. Admire it in others. Wish for it ourselves. Sometimes have to fake it. Often miss the fact that others are faking it.

Is doubt a bad thing? Historic tales – both fiction and nonfiction – may have you believe it is. Certainty implies action.

G.K. Chesterton said that “every act of will is an act of self limitation. To desire action is to desire limitation. In that sense, every act is an act of self sacrifice. When you choose anything, you reject everything else.”

Therein lies the rub. Deciding on one thing to the exclusion of all else. It’s one thing if you’re deciding on the color of your new road bike or the direction of your business. Entirely another if your decision affects your soul throughout eternity – or the fate of a nation for a few decades – or centuries.

As a young Air Force officer, I served under a few senior officers infected with “great leader syndrome” – they refused to change their mind even when presented with better, more current information. They didn’t want to appear to be a weak leader. Ironically, their refusal to even consider new ideas made them appear weak.

No one ever connected the word “weak” with Winston Churchill. Yet author Anthony McCarten, in his story, The Darkest Hour, wrote of an essential Churchill quality:

“…there was perhaps a more surprising ingredient than any nation in grave crisis might wish to find in its leader: doubt.

The vital ability to doubt his or her own judgements; to possess a mind capable of holding two contrary ideas at the same time and only then to synthesize them; to have a mind not made up, and so remain in conversation with all views.

This contrasted with a mind made up which could remain in conversation with only one person: the self. Britain had little use for an ideologue in these days. What it needed was a 360° thinker.”

Doubt is a characteristic of thought; a nutrient for the mind. Strong trees grow slowly. Strong minds do as well.

So dear Zadie, my counsel for you, your sister, and your closest cousin: it’s okay to doubt. Believe but question.

Think about the big questions, and let honest answers surely lead to your true beliefs.

A little doubt is a good thing.

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