How Certain Are You?

Have you ever been so certain that you were right….and others had it wrong? You know that indignant feeling where you could almost laugh at other people’s stupidity. How could they get it so wrong, when you know the answer is so simple?

I think we all have had moments like this. That knowing our beliefs are the right ones…and others have just got it horribly wrong. Governments, Religious Organizations, Work Colleagues, Friends, Family – we can all admit to this certainty in our lives – that we have the answers, and if everyone else followed our beliefs the world would be a better place. But would it?

Being certain is not equal to being right.

Our certainty in our beliefs and knowings can distort our truth, and mistakenly lead us to believe that we are right and everyone else has it wrong. This certainty in our own beliefs is self righteous and gives us a very narrow view of the world. Our convictions are just that – OUR CONVICTIONS.

They may not be right for others – and indeed by dismissing the rights and abilities of others to hold differing viewpoints, we limit the scope of our own world and our own experiences.

The following poem is a light-hearted look at this subject, but it gives a very poignant example of certainty.

The Cookie Thief by Valerie Cox

A woman was waiting at an airport one night,
With several long hours before her flight.
She hunted for a book in the airport shops,
Bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.
She was engrossed in her book but happened to see,
That the man sitting beside her, as bold as could be.
Grabbed a cookie or two from the bag in between,
Which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.
So she munched the cookies and watched the clock,
As the gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock.
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by,
Thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I would blacken his eye.”
With each cookie she took, he took one too,
When only one was left, she wondered what he would do.
With a smile on his face, and a nervous laugh,
He took the last cookie and broke it in half.
He offered her half, as he ate the other,
She snatched it from him and thought…oooh, brother.
This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude,
Why he didn’t even show any gratitude!
She had never known when she had been so galled,
And sighed with relief when her flight was called.
She gathered her belongings and headed to the gate,
Refusing to look back at that thieving ingrate.
She boarded the plane, and sank in her seat,
Then sought her book, which was almost complete.
As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise,
There was her bag of cookies, in front of her eyes.
If mine are here, she moaned with despair,
The others were his, and he tried to share.
Too late to apologize, she realized with grief,
That she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.

Can you imagine the feeling this woman had when she discovered that her certainty this man was taking her cookies was in fact wrong?

Have there been occasions in your own life when you realized that things you were certain about turned out not to be true? Things that you strongly believed in, and tried to help others see the errors in their own ways because you “knew the truth?”

We all have a need to feel certain about things in our lives because without it we can feel anxious and out of control. Therefore it is human nature to try and control our surroundings and the people within it. Certainty can give us a comforting feeling – our comfort zone, and over certainty in many aspects of our lives can make us blind to others viewpoints and beliefs.

Maybe it is time to sit back and reflect and analyze all your certainties, and make a conscious decision about which ones are indeed your truth and which ones are like the cookies – just your perception of what has occurred in your world.

About Brenda

Read more about Brenda on the About Brenda Freeman page.
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41 Responses to How Certain Are You?

  1. Evan says:

    I grew up in a fundamentalist church (not so common in Australia as the US) where certainty was the order of the day.

    Curiously my way out of this was the certainty that God wasn’t scared of the results of scholarship or the new things that might be discovered. So I suppose trust overcame the need for certainty.

    At the moment I think we can arrive at a reasonably confident idea of reality if we are genuinely willing to listen deeply to each other.

  2. Anoosia Ann Ramsey (BK) says:

    The mind is so powerful, it contained all our wealth….

  3. Tricia Karp says:

    Brenda, what a fabulous poem.

    How wonderful the world would be if we could operate from a place of truth… Imagine that level of self-acceptance, and dropping our judgments of others. Truly life-changing stuff.

    Food for thought…

    Thank you,

    • Tricia
      I had read this poem many years ago, and recently found it in my office after a major spring clean.

      It related so well to many comments I have received through this site and also through facebook and private emails that I had to post it.

      I can remember re-evaluating “my certainties” after first reading this poem, and found that many of them no longer served me well. It was one of the catalysts to the type of life I have now – always learning and growing. Words can be so powerful.

  4. Oh, the story made me cry. I indeed agree that certainty is different to being right or correct.

  5. Sue Mitchell says:

    There’s not much that gets my dander up more than righteous dogmatism. But this poem points out that often we are being dogmatic and don’t even realize it…great food for thought.

  6. Val Wilcox says:

    I have always gotten a chuckle over this story. We do have our own set of perceptions that we operate from. We have the choice of either going through life with blinders on or to see, feel and hear all the wonderous differences in life. Stepping into another person’s reality can open your eyes to a different point of view. How enriching is that!

    Thanks for sharing this timely reminder to really see the situations around us,
    Val 😉

    • I also have a chuckle every time I read or hear this poem. There have been occasions when I was certain….which only later turned out not to be.

      When I first heard this piece many years ago, it triggered me to investigate all my “certainties” and question their continuing validity for me in my life. Was quite a confronting exercise, but one which has had amazing effects on my life

  7. Great post and topic. I LOVE the cookie thief story, glad to see it resurface every few years. When I’m training new therapists to work as marriage and family therapists, this is really an important topic. It’s critical to be able to separate our “intuition” from our “projections” and baggage from the past in working with other people on their relationships. Takes a lot of time and patience to cultivate this skill.
    Thanks for sharing,

    • Thank you Adam. A good story, no matter how old which highlights in a wonderfully humorous way our understanding of certainty.

      I can imagine this would be an extremely important lesson to learn and knowledge to impart in your field.

      Thank you for your comments

  8. Walter says:

    For one thing, nothing is certain in this world. If we content ourselves of the things we think is certain then it is highly probable that we are closing our minds to other possibilities. We should all be aware of this erroneous tendency on our part. 🙂

    • Brenda says:

      Many of the things we are certain about – are habitual, and I agree Walter we can close our minds to other possibilities.
      Certainty can be comfortable…but do we want comfort or growth? A question for all of us to ponder!

  9. In answer to the questions I have received via email on this subject, this post was about evaluating your own personal certainties. It is not my intention to question anyone’s beliefs.

    However, in my own life there were things I was absolutely certain about until I honestly and objectively examined them. I kept many of these personal certainties with me, and replaced many others – a very enlightening and wonderful experience.

  10. Ty says:

    To be great is to be misunderstood – I am certain of that

  11. Nema says:

    Interesting posts – I have heard this poem before and I like what you have written to compliment it. Gives you a whole new idea about your ideas of right and wrong

  12. Kina says:

    It is good too read your website again. I have been away from the net for a while. There are some interesting updates here…..and I especially like reading all the comments

  13. Seya says:

    How certain am I? In some things very certain, but now not so sure. I will make sure I am eating my own cookies next time 🙂

  14. Randi says:

    Good post…love the story. It really makes you stop and think

  15. Betty says:

    Loved this poem…made me stop and think about the times I have been sure of something only to find out I was wrong (after making a bit of a scene about it)…..wish I had read this article years ago

  16. Sam says:

    I am glad that I found your website. There are some cool articles, and i especially like this one about the Global recession. Think outside the box

  17. Suta says:

    I’m amazed of your articles – such a wide range of topics, but very relevant to us all. Thank you

  18. Thank you everyone for your comments on this subject. We are often so quick to judge because we are certain we are right…….this article is a great reminder that sometimes we are not 🙂

  19. Sarja says:

    After reading this “I am certain” that I will return to your site. 🙂 Well written and enjoyable to read

  20. Stefanie says:

    This post was extremely motivating, especially because it relates to something I am currently experiencing. Thanks

  21. Chuck says:

    Good work. You are very good writer!!

  22. Dalton says:

    I have really enjoyed reading all your articles. Love this one especially. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work!

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  24. Lai says:

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  25. Bertha says:

    I am a regular visitor to your site but this is the first time I have commented. Just wanted you to know how much finding this site has meant to me and I have taken on board many of your suggestions. Thank you

  26. Raven says:

    I thought I was certain…but maybe not 🙂

  27. Dee says:

    I love reading a post that makes me think. This is one of those – thanks

  28. Josie says:

    This is a wonderful poem – love it it really brings home the issue of how certain you can be…and also how wrong you can be at the same time.

  29. Kylie says:

    One of my all-time favorite poems

  30. Maurita says:

    Definitely am – enjoy reading your posts. More please

  31. Margarite says:

    Love this poem – can’t stop smiling

  32. Kirsty says:

    Great poem – makes you think

  33. Mariano says:

    Love this – there are times when I am certain, but it doesn’t turn out right. Maybe next time I won’t rant and rave and try to persuade others that I am right

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