We live in a divisive world. Everything from politics, to racial issues, to religious views, to sexual orientation, to culture. You name it, and people have found a way to draw lines in the sand around it. We lived in this “us” vs “them” world before Covid-19 hit and forced us all into lives of isolation. Our mandated Isolation has done nothing but deepen this divide, pushing opposing views further and further apart. So, where do we go from here? How do we find a way to meet in the middle in any real way? How can we find compromise when we can’t even agree on what is considered true?
As the pandemic has found ways to continually deepen this divide, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the concept of truth. What is truth? Most of us answer this question categorically through one of the many lenses we inherited based on where and when we were born. I challenge you to think a little deeper. While it is totally fine to answer the question of truth this way, this approach assumes a lot more than it first appears. Truth encompasses the purpose of life, and sets the rules for everything that exists. That’s a pretty huge thing for us to have inherently different views on. It’s no wonder that divides are deepening as we are pushed deeper and deeper into our own worlds. We find articles that back up a piece of our truth to share to our friend groups who most likely believe some semblance of the same truth already.
It’s hard to challenge our notion of the truth. It is even harder to do so when our current world leaves us feeling vulnerable, scared, and uncertain of the future. All the more reason to re-assess what truth means to you. Take a growth mindset. Assume you don’t have all the answers. That truth is more elusive than we all assume it to be. Perhaps this is more easily seen in a real life example.
Have you ever asked yourself, “What job would I be the absolute worst at?” I can tell you what mine would be. A semi-truck driver. Not only am I helpless to navigate without a GPS, I am also useless at backing up anything when something is attached to my vehicle. If I have trouble with a tiny little trailer, can you imagine how comical it would be for me to attempt to back up a massive semi-truck and line it up with some tiny loading dock? If by some roll of fate I ended up as a semi-truck driver, people would view me quite differently. Not because of anything to do with the job itself, but because of my inability to do the job with any sort of skill or efficiency. Sure, I could improve with time. Maybe even become only slightly annoying with how many times I would have to pull forward and retry backing down an alley at an angle with my massive trailer.
Even more important than how this would change how i’m viewed by the world, is how much it would change my view of the world. If this were my profession, I would view myself as inept and inefficient at best. I would be more irritable, less fulfilled, and more prone to mental distress. Is this how I view semi-drivers? Absolutely not. So what’s the difference? The difference comes when I add myself into the equation. We filter the world in so many ways that we don’t even realize. How can we possibly have a handle on something as encompassing and world defining as truth? If one’s view of truth can be altered by something as cosmically small as a career, then we certainly don’t have as firm of a grip on it as we think.
Loosening your grip on truth might seem like a dangerous thing to do, but it’s not. Not only does it make us more open to growth, but it also allows us to have meaningful conversations, find better ways forward, and deviate from the prescribed mindsets the world has taught us to choose between. So, how do we do it? How do we loosen our grip on truth?
- Realize our finiteness. This is not a debate about eternal life, reincarnation, or nothingness. This is simply a realization that we as people are not perfect, cannot become perfect, and have a limited view of the world.
2. Don’t be afraid to be uncertain. Uncertainty is not weak. Even PHD holding experts will willingly admit that are only an expert at a tiny fraction of their own field of study. The more we know, the more we realize how little we know.
3. Name your dirt. We all filter truth through countless subconscious scripts. Some of these filters are held by nearly everyone, and hold the closest thing we have to universal truth. Call them, clear filters. Clear filters include things like, all people deserve to be happy, or harming others is wrong. These clear filters are accompanied by all sorts of dirty filters. The “dirt” in the dirty filters isn’t bad, evil, or even wrong. The dirt comes from all the things that have been added to our lives as we go through life. Everything from where we were born, who are parents are, what career we chose, what religion we were raised with, and everything in between. The dirt makes us who we are, but it also clouds or vision.
For example, take the clear filter idea of people deserve to be happy, and apply a few dirty filters to it. Suddenly we are caught up in debates about the person’s sexual orientation, religious beliefs, racial identity, and political views. What happened to the base idea that all people deserve to be happy?
Let’s use another example. Have you ever asked yourself, “What job would I be the best at?” I thought I’ve answered this question several times over the course of my life, but time has proven each one to be clouded by some amount of “dirt.” I started my career in the church, feeling the call to help people find their spiritual self. When this deteriorated I pursued my masters in marriage and family therapy, attempting to hone in on my desire to help others find their way in life. From there I worked in higher education, specifically in the area of academic advising, rounding out the areas i’ve attempted to help others gain perspective in life. Then, I started writing novels. This one stands out as inherently different from the others, but, I think it is the one that will stick. Why is that? I’ve found a view of myself through the dirt.
I used to see myself as academically gifted, but I was just good and weaving concepts together. I used to see myself as relationally adept, but I’m just good at observing and naming emotions. I used to think my purpose in life was to guide others to a firmer grip on reality, but my true purpose comes in helping them question it. What truths are you hiding from yourself? What relationships are you keeping yourself from enjoying? Loosen your grip on the truth. Remember your finiteness. Bask in your uncertainty. Name your dirt, and the real you will start to shine through.