“Until you do what you believe in, you don’t know whether you believe it or not.” -Leo Tolstoy

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What does it mean?

In: 25

Belief can only be confirmed through experience, so until you’ve done/experienced something, you don’t know if you truly believe in/support that action.

Someone might describe a delicious meal to you, but until you’ve personally tried the food, you won’t know if you actually like it or not.

Let’s say I believe that I like tomatoes. I’ve read about the flavor of tomatoes, the acidity, and I believe that I will like them.

Until I taste them, I won’t know if my belief was right or wrong.

This applies to a lot of areas. If I believe that universal healthcare would be better for my country, I don’t truly know if I believe in the concept until I try it. If I believe that I could compete as a professional basketball player, I don’t truly know if that belief is true until I compete against NBA talent.

Sometimes people think they believe in something, but when they get into a situation where they actually have to prove that they believe in it, they can’t do it after all.

For example, it’s easy to say that you believe in the strength of a rope, but if you’re asked to jump off somewhere and let the rope catch you, you will likely hesitate and might not dare to jump after all.

I can’t find the original source so it’s hard to know the context, it appears to be from one of his private letters. It could be a reference to Tolstoy wanting to give away his family’s fortune to the poor. He was quite wealthy through inheritance and believed he didn’t deserve it. He often bickered with his wife about giving away all his money

My interpretation is this: people can say something is important to them, but they won’t know whether it’s truly important until they’ve proven it to themselves through their actions. If you believe in addressing the homeless crisis, and then the government proposes building a homeless shelter in your neighborhood, do you vote for it or against it? If you vote against it because you’re worried about your property values going down, you don’t truly believe in resolving the homeless crisis as much as you did before it required sacrifice.