As I write this post, numerous doubts are going through my head. I doubt people will care about what I write. Doubt my abilities to write in a way that makes sense. Doubt the worth of writing in the first place. All this doubting leads to two questions:
Why don’t these doubts cause me to quit writing?
Why do I continue to write?
To answer both questions, I need to explain some general ideas about doubt, and then explain what is happening in my situation.
When I use the word doubt, I am talking about a state of uncertainty, where people question their ability to perform an action, question their views about reality, or question the results of a decision they could make. For example, people can question their ability to speak confidently in front of a large group. And they can question their decision to cliff dive when they’re eighty feet above the water, looking down at their potential doom.
In these examples, certain reasons could cause the doubt. A public speaker’s doubt could have been caused by regret over the failure of his last speech. A cliff diver’s doubt could have been caused by fear about the dangers of taking the leap.
In almost every case, doubt has some source. The doubt could come from a particular mood. It could come from a well-reasoned argument counter to one’s view. It could come from a desire to drop a view that’s true because it’s inconvenient. And sometimes, doubt feels like an indistinguishable blob with no obvious source.
The abundance of potential sources makes doubt difficult to narrow down to a specific source. However, the recognition of three things help me to narrow down this source:
1. The recognition of my tendencies. I tend to doubt just about every decision I make, and every view that I hold. Doubt is lurking around the corners of my mind. And when I recognize this tendency, I can accept that I will be dealing with doubts even when I have no good reason to doubt.
2. The recognition of two broad categories of doubt – emotional doubt and intellectual doubt. I could have emotional doubt when I fear for the consequence of my actions, or worry that what I thought was true actually is not. I could have intellectual doubt when my current view seems to be outmatched by competing views, causing me to seriously question the truth of my current view.
3. The recognition of what is true. If I have good reasons to think my view is true, and still doubt that view, it’s unlikely that I’m having intellectual doubt. Instead, emotions are likely the leading source of my doubt. If the reasons supporting my view appear to be falling apart, then I probably do have intellectual doubt. In that case, I can consider the arguments for and against the view in question. I may resolve the doubt about my current view in this process. But I may also find an opposing view compelling, and change my view in response.
For me, this last thing is the most important to focus on. I want to be pursuing truth, no matter what emotional state results from that pursuit. When I realize the reasons I hold a view still stand strong, then I know that the doubt is pointless; the source of my doubt is invalid. I can then continue on in confidence.
This idea of focusing on truth is expressed in a Bible verse that I refer to often. This verse stands as a point on its own, and comes in the middle of some closing remarks from the Apostle Paul to the Church in Phillipi, around 60 AD. The verse is Phillipians 4:8.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
In this passage, Paul tells the church to focus on things that are worth focusing on – right things, admirable things, excellent things. And he tops off this list with truth – to think about things that are true.
With this verse in mind, l’ll now answer my opening questions using the three things I mentioned above.
Why don’t my doubts cause me to quit writing?
I recognize my tendencies and understand that I will be prone to doubt (#1). I also recognize that my doubts mostly come in an emotional form, like the fear of people’s response to this blog (#2). Because I recognize these things, I know I can keep writing even when I have a sudden burst of doubt.
Why do I continue to write?
Just like Paul advises in the verse above, I focus on a few things I think are true. One, God is real and trustworthy. Two, God have given me a passion for thinking through deep topics about life. And three, writing helps me to utilize this passion in a way that helps me and has the potential of helping others (#3).
Recognizing these three things, I trust God and continue to write.
Even when I doubt you liked this post.