Like most people, I must work to make sense for myself about COVID vaccinations and protocols. I am not a medical expert nor am I an expert to understand the tons of information on the internet. Talking to many friends about this has shown I am not alone. But several things have become apparent to me through my own inquiries into making big decisions as a series of questions I ask myself.
Who and What do I believe/trust and Why?
I have to place my trust in someone or thing to make important decisions on things I know little about. There are many fervent advice-givers. So I ask myself what background expertise is there in this person or data? Where did it come from? Is it based on deep understanding or is this opinion in any way tainted by another agenda that is driving the advice?
In my own circle of friends and experts, it is easier to judge especially if I have known someone a long time and have a strong sense as to the basis of their advice. Is their advice based on real-life experience and facts? Or do they tend toward unfounded opinions, fears or have some ax they grind in life?
Online it is harder to judge as there is so much misinformation disguised as legitimate. I look at fact-checking tools like Snopes.com or educational research institutions that host websites on topics like healthcare, they usually end in “.EDU.” I also Google specific questions I have and look for solid unbiased statements.
What preexisting beliefs or fears do I already have?
Please note that I automatically assumed I already have pre-existing opinions. I am human, it comes with the package. It helps me to realize when searching for an answer whether I already have my answer and am just looking for ammunition to defend it. And am I willing to set it aside to have an open mind to make a decision on today’s situation?
Who will I piss off if I make my decision this way or that?
Big decisions are often not really my own, there are consequences to some choices that can be difficult to bear if someone close to me will be disappointed if do X or Y. Being aware of it in advance, I may have to plan for how to deal with it if this is truly going to be my own choice.
I don’t live in a vacuum
We live like we have autonomy in our individual lives, the truth is we live amid others. What we decide and how we go about it will affect others. This is especially true of practicing (or not) COVID protocols like mask-wearing or social distancing. I find I must stay alert through my daily routines when and where to keep myself safe by intervening in situations with others. My motto: Be safe and be nice.
The big influencers
I was raised in a very religious family and community. It wasn’t until I was 20 that I left that environment. While that upbringing formed who I am in life, it also means I inherited notions of decision-making that echo in me today.
Knowing that I carry this predisposition with me helps me see if I am really making a freely informed consent or not. Political affiliations also carry similar group mindsets that we swim in.
Make your choice and then make it right
Stand behind it, believe in your process that got you there. BUT stay open to new information and evidence. That’s life! No regrets but stay away, change is always constant!
Marty Wessler is a resident of Lawa‘i