How Do You Know? How Could You?

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, then you know I’m working on a new book. I am hammering away on a new manuscript that might surprise you. Instead of my typical theme of influence, this one is intensely personal – a deep dive into my relationship with my late father, who passed away in 2020.

Let’s sketch a quick picture. My dad proudly wore the uniform of the United States Marine Corps from 1962-1969, including a 13-month tour of duty in Vietnam. We all understand that no soldier walks away from the battlefield unscarred, even if those scars aren’t visible, and my father was no exception. After years of struggles and missteps, largely due to my dad’s actions, my parent’s marriage ended in divorce.

As painful as it was, I’ve managed to extend grace and forgiveness. The book contains a passage where I ponder my father’s life:

“I have no idea what life would be like growing up with an alcoholic father for whom I could never seem to measure up. I don’t know what I would have done with the experiences Dad had in Vietnam. To assume ‘I know’ is folly, wishful thinking. If the Apostle Peter could spend three years with Jesus, saw the miracles, professed with all his heart that he’d never forsake Him, only to deny Him three times, then who am I, and who are you, to ‘know’ how we would respond in any situation?”

With the culture of canceling individuals and trying to wipe out their existence from history gaining momentum, I’ve come to an understanding. None of us can be certain about our beliefs or actions had we been born in another era, in a different society, or to different parents.

Think about it. Some beliefs and actions that seem normal now might horrify future generations. Picture any contemporary controversial subject – riotous protests, abortion, transgender rights, climate change, or the demonization of those with opposing views.

This isn’t a debate platform. But I firmly believe that there are genuine, earnest people on either side of an issue. People act based on their deep-seated beliefs. Remember the Apostle Peter from the book excerpt? He made a profession with all of his heart and still acted contrary to how he thought he might behave.

Ever wondered where our beliefs stem from? Before You Know It by John Bargh, PhD., brilliantly dissects this question. He explains how our evolutionary history, personal experiences, cultural background, and recent events, craft our beliefs, actions, and consequently, our identities.

If any of these elements were different for you or me, we would have turned out differently, even if our names remained the same. We don’t have the luxury to take our present-day self, experiences, and knowledge, and time-travel back to another era. If you’d like to explore more on this, check out a post I wrote a while back, Are You Ever Really Past Your Past?,

If I, Brian Ahearn, had been born in the South in the early 1800s, or in the American Colonies during the 1750s, or even raised in America during the 1930s or 1940s, who would I be? And can you honestly say how you’d turn out if born in a different time or place?

Like I found a way to extend grace and offer forgiveness, I hope you find it in your heart to do the same. The path you’re on might be questioned in the future. I don’t believe you’d want to be erased from history just because someone cries, “How could you!?” Because remember, they’re not in your shoes, living your life.

Edited with ChatGPT

Brian Ahearn

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Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, Brian helps clients apply influence in everyday situations to boost results.

As one of only a dozen Cialdini Method Certified Trainers in the world, Brian was personally trained and endorsed by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority. His follow-up, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller. His latest book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, is a business parable designed to teach you how to use influence at home and the office.

Brian’s LinkedIn courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 500,000 people around the world!

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