What does it mean when a person says that they “believe” something? In my view, the term is often misused. I see the word “belief” as having deeper meaning than what society often allots to it. It is probably more accurate for a person to say “I think” or “I guess” rather than “I believe,” because the latter implies that you are certain of its truth. Our beliefs form the foundation of our view of the world, and act as our compass when we make decisions. Beliefs may even be important enough to an individual that they are willing to fight for them.
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Some of our beliefs have been stated so many times that they can now be classified as platitudes. A platitude is a moral statement that has been overused to the extent that it has lost meaning. When we hear the same phrase, over and over, the effect is dulled and it doesn’t grab our attention any longer. Those beliefs (now platitudes) are still represented by a voice in our consciousness, but they are no longer dominant voices and can be easily overruled by other concerns.
Many of us would say that “Safety First” ranks among our personal beliefs. We often don’t give it a second thought when we say it or see it on a poster, because we have heard it innumerable times over the years and nobody seems to ever question it. However, while it seems to be the right thing to say, do we actually believe it and act on it?
Mike Rowe of TV’s Dirty Jobs fame has some interesting thoughts on the subject. Rowe has pronounced the idea of “Safety Third,” which immediately grabs his viewer’s attention. No matter how you interpret his statement, it causes you to stop and wonder who would have the nerve to say such a thing. Taken at face value, Rowe appears to be an unfeeling brute to say that any concern could be more important than safety.
My personal take on Rowe’s Safety Third declaration is that he is trying to get people to think about what they truly believe. And, he is absolutely correct when he says that Safety First has become a platitude that no longer has the desired effect on the listener or the person who utters it. Many of us have been conditioned out of believing that safety should be the dominant concern when we make decisions.
Our problem with the safety message is that it implies an investment, and to some extent, deferred gratification. As humans, we have certain traits that have always been and will never change, and one of those is our bent towards what I call “Faster Easier.” We analyze pretty much every task we perform in terms of how much time and effort it will require to get the job done. Decisions on the methods we will use are often made with the goal of reducing the personal investment required to complete the task. Risk can also be a factor in our decision making, but we tend to downplay the risk if we perceive there is a significant reward waiting for us.