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Published August 03, 2012, 12:00 AM

Mike Rosmann: Core beliefs essential, especially to farmers

A core set of beliefs helps us know who we are. Our core set of beliefs gives direction when we are uncertain, when we feel little hope and while dealing with difficult problems.

By: By Mike Rosmann, INFORUM

A core set of beliefs helps us know who we are. Our core set of beliefs gives direction when we are uncertain, when we feel little hope and while dealing with difficult problems.

I am writing this as a psychologist, not as a theologian or proponent of religion.

I am not referring to particular people I serve professionally.

I am referring to people I observe around me and who I know well.

What I mean by core set of beliefs is difficult to articulate.

I am referring to what it is that keeps us going. I know my core beliefs keep me going. They are the center of what gives me meaning.

Viktor Frankl endured torture and the deaths of most of his loved ones in Nazi prison camps because of his core belief that everything can be taken from a man but the freedom to choose his own attitude in any given circumstance.

Without a core set of beliefs, one nearly always becomes anxious when stressed, even to the point of becoming immobilized. Sometimes obstacles in our paths force us to consider what we believe in. I think God puts them there as nudges to search for our purposes.

Faith is essential to a core set of beliefs. We have to believe in something that gives us hope. Faith usually involves belief in a higher power, or whatever one calls God.

God has been called Yahweh, Father, Jesus, Jehovah, Savior, Allah, Elohim, Supreme Being, Almighty, Prime Mover, King of Kings, Alpha and Omega, Brahmin, Om, Waheguru and many other terms. Many Native Americans refer to God as Mother Earth.

Since the beginning of modern humans, almost all cultures have developed their own concepts of God. Some cultures devised many gods, such as the ancient Greeks, the early Romans and the Norse.

What we call God is less important than the nature of God in our lives.

For me, God is the centering force of my life.

I had an atheist friend, Ben, who passed away of cancer a few years ago and with whom I had fierce debates over whether belief in God was necessary or a waste of time. He didn’t like the term “agnostic” but opted for “atheist” as the best descriptor of his belief system.

Agnostic means without knowledge or desire to understand; atheist means to deliberately not believe in a higher power.

Ben said believing in a God complicates things and is unnecessary. Too many wars concern how we believe in God, he said. Political systems that require a specific set of beliefs are particularly harsh and unfair, he said.

Yet Ben was one of the most generous, broad-minded and loyal people I have known. He improved life without belief in God but he had a core set of beliefs. His beliefs involved helping others exhibit their best. His self-concept and his hopes depended on helping others and loving them freely. He had a higher purpose than advancing himself.

For several weeks when I was younger, I tried not believing in God or praying. Eventually I became sullen and empty. I found there was nothing to hope for.

A core set of beliefs gives me and all of us values, a moral code and guidelines to live by. It underlies the approach I take to help people manage their behaviors in healthy ways.

I view myself as a coach and educator. I help others manage themselves and find their own core beliefs.

Farmers are especially aware of their beliefs or the absence of them because of closeness to nature. How can a farmer not believe in some form of higher power when corn seeds emerge from dirt into which they were planted a few days to weeks earlier? How can a rancher not admire the first breaths of a newborn calf as the manifestation of a higher force?

Most new mothers and fathers thank God when their babies utter their first lusty cries. Native Americans thank the buffalo for giving its life to sustain its human hunters. Farmers thank God for bringing rich grains from the fields.

As agricultural producers we are surrounded with demonstrable signs that some force beyond us is in charge of matters.

If we align ourselves with beliefs and values that sustain life, we discover this higher force.

Farming is a highly spiritual and noble calling to produce essentials for life.

If we opt only to make a profit we become exploiters who collapse on ourselves.

We have little to hope for except self-promotion. Selflessness is the path to understanding the role of God in our lives.


Rosmann is a clinical psychologist and farmer; he lives near Harlan, Iowa. For previously published columns and his recent book, “Excellent Joy: Fishing, Farming, Hunting and Psychology,” go online to www.agbehavioralhealth.com.

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