A blanket of quiet has covered the sky, which is dropping flakes of white powder softly on the ground. The branches are sagging with the extra weight, and the creaking tree limbs are decorated in white lace. Our yard has become a magical winter wonderland.
Last Sunday was such a day, when this normally temperate part of Texas was coated in snow. Soon after I wrote to you, we started out with rain, which was quickly transformed to little balls of sleet, and then the sky opened up with sheets of snow. Three inches rapidly accumulated, and I did what any self-respecting child would do. I started a snowball fight with the kids upon arrival at the church parking lot, and when I got home, I went painting in the snow. How fun!!
When it snows here, once every two or three years, it takes us by surprise. It’s simply something we don’t expect. Writers often talk about “suspending disbelief” when watching or reading a work of fiction. But sometimes we have to suspend what we’ve believed and accept what is.
Life can be filled with moments of suspended belief.
Words I Did Not Expect
As a child, I never heard my parents swear. And if someone would have told me they sometimes did, I would never have believed them. It was something we did not do. Yet one day, when I was about 13, we were on our little boat docked at Lake Erie. My dad was on the floor with the engine all torn apart, trying to get it to work again. Suddenly, I see him struggling with getting a nut off, trying to turn the wrench with all his weight behind it. Crack! The wrench slipped, pinched his fingers, and he shouted “Dammit!”
I was mortified.
I had heard other kids say their parents swore, but mine never did, and I had just witnessed it. I did not know how to handle it. I can remember being very uncomfortable. I never said a word to anyone about it, as if I was holding a big dirty secret. And for the record, I don’t think I ever heard him swear again. Ever. All I could do was accept what I did not want to believe.
There’s a Name for It
The term is “cognitive dissonance” — when we hold one belief and suddenly have evidence that our belief was wrong. It’s a conflict between what we hold on to and what we now know. And people often try to minimize those feelings of conflict, refusing to recognize them and even avoiding new information. In my case, I was embarrassed, ashamed, and feeling a little guilty.
Have you ever experienced it?
Jolted in Disbelief
One time I was sitting in my office when my trusted colleague, who ran accounting, came in and sat down. “I need to talk to you,” he said. He went on to tell me that in his former job, he did something he thought was legal that turned out not to be. He told me he was giving his two-week notice because he was heading to prison for a year.
At that moment, my beliefs were suspended. I had known this guy for a couple of years. He was straight as an arrow, a nice man, and totally trustworthy. He was an integral part of my team. Suddenly, I had to deal with what he told me, and I could not believe it. Of all things, the man running my accounting was going to jail for something he did at another company. How could it be? Did he steal from me? How could I be so blind? At first I thought it was a prank. I really struggled with it and felt betrayed and confused.
Have you ever thought one thing about a person, only to find out something unbelievable?
When living in Salt Lake, our offices shared the floor with two other businesses and we got very acquainted with our neighbors. One day the police came in and dragged one of our neighbors out. This nice, quiet, friendly guy, it turns out, had been kidnapping and killing children and burying them in his yard. We were all horrified because our own kids had been around from time to time. He was one of the people we said hello to every day. He came to our parties. Again, I had to suspend my own beliefs. I was sure the police had to be wrong, and the court would find out it was someone else. But the evidence was strong, and he was convicted.
One of the most difficult things any of us can face is needing to let go of our beliefs when they are no longer right. Human nature is to hold on to and defend them, and when someone brings us absolute proof that we were wrong, we often continue to fight for what we believe, or, at least, we struggle with accepting the change. We want proof. And when we see proof we were wrong, we are often skeptical (which is generally a good thing). Maybe we think someone made it up, edited it, Photoshopped it, etc.
Suspending belief is like a roller coaster ride. It can be difficult, or it can be a fun show to watch and experience and one of the best parts about our personal growth.
Life has been filled with surprises where I’ve had to adjust my belief systems. People were often not what or who they said they were. Technology that wasn’t possible became possible. People I believed to be solid turned out to be disturbing.
If you ever want to have an uncomfortable day, write down everything you believe and don’t believe in your life. What you believe about the people you believe in. And don’t forget the people or things you don’t believe in.
Then ask yourself, in each case, why you believe what you do. “What was my original source? Is my belief still valid?” (Something like a simple online search might reveal new science.)
It’s also good to ask yourself, “Do I believe it because I want it to be true?
Chicken or Egg
For me, eggs are a great example. I don’t eat them, because my lifelong belief is that they are filled with fat and cholesterol. But that has been disproven. Turns out eggs are a good fat we need, and though they do have cholesterol, it’s not dangerous in moderation. Yet I still tend to cling to that past belief because I held it so long. It’s intellectually foolish but emotionally comforting.
Just because you think something is true isn’t evidence enough. Maybe it even used to be true, but no longer is. Maybe the voices we’ve trusted to tell us the truth (teachers, preachers, parents, friends, books, TV, radio, social media, celebrities) just keep saying things, either because they still believe them and never bothered to find out for themselves, or they are holding on to old information that has changed.
Five years ago my dad said to me, “What would happen if you could never hold any in-person events again? Could your business withstand it?” I told him that could never happen. Yet with COVID, it did. I had to suspend my beliefs and adopt new ones to survive.
What about you? What are you believing?
Are your beliefs serving you, or would different beliefs serve you better?
How have 2020 and early 2021 changed your beliefs?
What are you clinging to because you want to believe it?
What do you believe that is no longer true?
Try, if you can, to suspend your beliefs about everything.
Don’t accept the word of anyone else. Question every expert.
And if you find you’ve been believing something that is wrong, don’t beat up on yourself. You’re doing the best you can.
Find out for yourself. Be curious. It will serve you well.
Good morning Eric,
I love, “Sunday Morning Coffee,” with you. In fact I enjoy all the communication I receive from Streamline Publishing especially your Market Minute.
I have a question. Is Christopher Volpe with Streamline Publishing? If so do you endorse him? I just got an email from him and I am so sorry not to see your face. It kind of scared me.
Anyway, I know Streamline Publishing is going through some changes and I did not know if this is one of them.
Please do not give up on, “Sunday Morning Coffee,”. I do not have much outside contact with people and it is certainly nice to see a familiar face each Sunday.
All the best to you and your family.
Thanks, Eric, for a thought-provoking read. I look forward to the weeks ahead … and to Watercolor Live, for which I have been signed up for a long time. I’ve gotten rusty and need the boost. Thanks again.
I really really enjoy your writings & Daily Facebook post. You are an inspiration & positive. I love been around positive people. Last year I was diagnosed with ALS which is taking me down quickly. I can’t paint anymore but enjoy watching your post with all the wonderful artist. I would have loved to have taken one of your classes but my hands will not allow that. I am fortunate to have loving, caring family that help me. I have found out how quickly your life can change, so my advice is make the best of every minute, adjust your life when needed, enjoy God’s painting in the sunsets & sunrises & be happy,
Thank you Eric for these words of wisdom
Well…WOW! Once again you have sent my thoughts into analysis-overload. This time your words plumbed the depths of my soul. This goes arm-in-arm with not hanging onto the past. Learn from it and move on.
Thank you, Eric, a million times-thank you.
I am an artist who has worked in oils for years until I was in a dilemma and had to do a commissioned double portrait (Mother-Daughter) in watercolor. It was my very first watercolor ever. Miraculously, the client was both, surprised as well as delighted with the results. I was flabbergasted when she insisted on paying the price of the oil we originally agreed upon, saying that she didn’t know I could paint in watercolors.
The truth was that I didn’t know I could paint in watercolors either.
I have two successful books of watercolor paintings of Central Park in New York City.
cometocentralpark.com , among other watercolor goodies.
Well, just wow! First time to read your blog, and I can honestly say – not what I was expecting! Thought provoking and a very uncomfortable read. Thank you for your honestly and your words. Can’t wait for next week’s instalment.
Thanks Eric for your wise words. Watercolor Live sounds great but it is Watercolour Replay for Australia time-wise. 💕
My husband is a retired policeman and he has so many stories of parents that could not believe their children could ever commit crimes. Even when there were photos, videos, evidence, or confessions, the parents could not accept their child could do such a thing. It is hard to step back, especially with a family member, to take a second look or hear what others (including law enforcement) are saying. One shouldn’t feel bad, but thankful that they can see through the fog of love for someone.
Well said…now I am questioning my beliefs. Thank you for your articles.
Thank you so much for adding the concept of balance to a confusing time in life/history. One often lets past belief cloud current events, whether personal or otherwise.
I’m just finishing a book I am really liking called. “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day” by Mark Batterson. It stretchs my mind as to things and ideas I’ve grown up with and looks a looks at things in our lives that look like disaster but, just maybe, God put in our lives to change our direction, our thinking. I think many of you would find the thoughts…..mind changing…….like I am. Goes right along with Eric’s word today.
This was a timely article Eric. I am a 72 year old father of 8 grown children and I am suffering from the Covid (Wuhan) virus. I am recovering slowly. Flat on my back I am reflecting on many things in my life and doing everything I can do to simplify everything and concentrate 4 things. God, my wife, painting and loving people. I have been through several of the disbeliefs you mentioned in this article and the one thing I know if 2nd chances are possible. Thank you.
Thank you for your posting today. Irregardless of what each of us believe we are all guilty of this. We have failed to think for ourselves because it’s too easy to just believe what we are told especially when it reinforces our current beliefs. Sadly as books are disappearing and our internet sources are becoming more and more bias with groups/individuals controlling what is or isn’t allowed it’s becoming more difficult to believe ones own searches.
After reading this I hope that you will include more watercolor artists in Plein Air Magazine. Watercolor artists continue to receive short shrift in that publication, and in the last edition there was not one mention of a watercolorist.
I believe English Lit teachers call this “the willing suspension of disbelief.” The argument is that unless you employ this in your reading you will miss the richness of the story. Eric, I’m glad you’ve taken cognitive dissonance to heart. It can help you make a much more solid framework for life.
I remember about age 7 I started to realize that my parents weren’t perfect. I ‘m glad to hear your family believed in being civil which today is a rare thing for most families.
I signed up for beginner class but have not heard back anything. When will I get how to log on etc .? If I really like the 27th can I opt in for the entire conference?
I have been a plein air painter for 30 plus years and only dabbled in watercolor. I have decided to pursue excellence in watercolor and have limited my work to that medium for the last 6 months. The beginning was difficult, but if you are proficient in oil, the biggest hurdle is learning to use the medium. Personally, as important as watercolor painting parameters and rules are to novices, i have decided to approach my efforts in wc in a “seat of the pants” style. I use my oil painting with thin washes approach with some effort to save the whites. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn”t but it’s fun!! Let’s see how far I get!
I cannot believe you wrote about belief ! I was amazed. This has been a year of physical struggle for me. Just as I was giving up teaching art and was forced to stay home indefinitely for health reasons last January. Soon, I found myself joined by almost everyone in the world due to covid.I decided to throw myself into painting every day for at least three to four hours, hoping to improve my skills in oils. And then, along came Eric Rhoads, and streamline videos (free) just the right price for me. My only struggle was from friends and relatives who were adamant for Trump and others who were gun ho for Biden. I did not know which side I was on with all that has taken place. Then I realized in this case , I don’t have to choose and I do not have to believe in either one. The most important thing in my life is believing in God. This Sundays Coffee was exactly what I needed to hear. Eric, you have been a Godsend for me and I just want to thank you for the wonderful artists you have brought to me in a time when I sorely needed them. This whole year has been a great opportunity for me to spend my last days painting in a different way believing that every moment is precious and my love for painting is still with me. After teaching oils for over 40 years, you would think I would know everything I need to know about my art. Au contraire, I have learned so much more thanks to you and Streamline Videos. Again, thank you, and May God Bless You with all good things. Anne Porter, Surprise Arizona
Thought provoking,…thanks Eric! Good message.
I liked your commits to day. I think you have to hold on to our believes that are true. Some people may want to convice you that they are not true. There is truth out in the world. There is so many things that are not true that we have to lean on to a power above ourselves to deterime what is true and what is not true. I believe in not judgeing others. Even if someone makes a mistake which we all do. They are not totally bad. It takes looking beyond the mistake and seeing each other as Our Heavenly Father see us inperfect people trying just to do better everyday. When your father let out a bad word on that day. Did it really change anything other then to point out to you that humans make mistakes. That did not change the good person that your father was. It just showed you that he was human. That is the truth. People make mistakes people are human. That was part of the plan when we came here and someone was sent to take help us move forward when we do make wrong choices. As the world is to day we need to hold on to our beliefs even more. Your friends that did wrong are still human beings. The wrongs were wrong but only Our Heavenly Father has the right to judge them and he will deterime there fate not us. You can not know enought about someone to know why they act the way they do. When we quite juging others and learn to forgive and not dwell on our own inperfections then we can start to do what we were all sent here to do and that is to save and help each other.
I enjoy your Sunday Coffee emails and video interviews on FB.
Your commentary is a gentle reminder that we can always step back and reframe our beliefs and expectations. Watercolor is a good place to begin. Letting go of preconceived notions is a challenging thing for many of us…but with grace, it is the best thing we can do for ourselves and everyone around us. Who knows what beautiful things we can create in the process? New paintings for sure. Thank you for handling what for some of us, might be a difficult subject.
My blog Goodly’s tagline comes from Descartes: De omnibus dubitatum.
I worked for nearly a decade with a man who, out of the blue two years ago, was arrested for peddling child porn across state lines.
He is serving a 10-year sentence in a federal prison today.
Never once did I think he harbored a dark compulsion. Quite the opposite: his biggest interest, outside of business, was baseball—or so I believed.
Well another well developed Sunday comment. I suffer from dysgraphia so to read your weekly posts is to reach in and touch clearly what I would love to be able to write my self. I am not so sure how easy it flows from your pen, I only know it would take me several rewrites to come even close to what you do. I hope your veiled comments get to the audience, that TV coverage suggests, really need it at this time. Thanks again for another enjoyable hour of thoughts and reflection .
Great Story for today’s world!
Thank you, Eric. I look forward to each of your “Sunday Coffees”. Yes, there have been a few times in my life where what I “knew” to be true was not. Some times it was because I wanted it to be true. But each of those times helped me learn to think carefully about things going forward. That has helped me be more balanced today; to question more; and trust my own observations.
The times like your snowball fight in the church parking lot are such a joy. To me they seem to be the little child that is still within us finding the simply and true joy in each day. I’m in northern Illinois, so snow is standard as winter arrives, but even so as I see those first snow flakes fluttering down, I hear that little girl within me shouting with happiness and amazement “It’s Snowing!”. We are such lucky people to still experience those huge and simple joys. It seems to me that they help us be better artists.
Enjoy today and I wish you a very good new year.
As I read the first paragraph, I was wondering if your Father reads your Sunday Coffee and if you ever shared this story with him. I enjoy reading your Sunday Coffee and can see you throwing snowballs with your kids. If your Dad is reading this, Happy Birthday to him and tell him did a wonderful job raising you.
Thanks for this, Eric. I always enjoy your writing, but especially today’s thoughts.
And I may even try watercolor…
It’s a shock when we are presented with only one view of something or someone and discover the opposite is also true. It doesn’t mean what you use to believe is untrue. It means there is more then what you knew.
Thank you Eric, for your words today. So true, on every level, in any field, applied to any and every situation. May each of us learn to Question and seek Truth!