Why Should We Care About What's True In A Post-Truth World?
The following write-up is my entry into the RZIM contest put on by Abdu Murray as part of his book launch (Saving Truth). Click here to explore the contest details, and read other people's essay submissions.
When you choose to allow and participate in a post-truth world, your life (now and later) is at stake. In the now, your peace, stability, adventure, enjoyment, meaning, and achievement all hinge on how seriously you value and pursue truth. And this extends to your family, community, and world. There are also long-term implications when you reject reality as it truly is.
The western world has entered an era where large portions of our population have complete disregard for the reality in which we live. When the truth does not align with their preference, they openly dismiss it, even while acknowledging its merit.
The numerous examples of this post-truth behavior span religion, politics, and our personal lives. But it’s not all the unfamiliar to each of us. How many of us have chosen to do something wrong even when we knew it was unlawful, or morally corrupt? All of us.
So at a minimum, we’ve all lived moments and seasons of post-truth. We’ve disregarded the truth in these moments, but if we as individuals and collectively as a community embrace this way of life, there are significant short and long-term consequences awaiting us.
But, not only is embracing truth important, we also need to align ourselves with meaningful truth, minimize reliance on our limited perspective, and value relationship more than simply being right. Let's explore the stakes for rejecting the truth.
What Is At Stake If You Reject Truth?
“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away.” - Elvis Presley.
The fate of our life hinges on whether we embrace or resist the truth. Resisting it may feel better at the moment, but like a credit card used to pay for items, we can't afford, reality will come knocking and with interest. If we choose to ignore paying that credit card altogether, collectors will aggressively go after us and extract the money from our working income. If we decide to claim bankruptcy, we could get out of the debt, but now this mark on our credit will affect our ability to buy things, like a house. The effects are much worse in a less civilized society.
”Truth is the essential foundation for producing good outcomes.” Ray dalio
Living with a post-truth mindset in our life leads to a series of compounding problems, usually enabled by someone (family, business, etc..) paying the cost for us since the universe hardly allows us to live long while disregarding reality. Eventually, when there's nowhere left to hide and no one to continue enabling our behavior, the consequences come asking for their dues.
But if you think the problems in this life are an issue for living with a post-truth mindset, they only scratch the surface compared to our eternal fate. Do we make the choice to live in or outside God's presence forever?
In this life we could (and many do) live and believe however we want to, hoping (without strong evidence) it'll work out for us. We might strive to live as "a good person" thinking when we die, God will understand that we did our best and we'll spend eternity with him. We could embrace a false belief system that grants us our desires and wishes, or we might choose to deny there is anything beyond this life at all.
Unfortunately, what we choose to believe doesn't make it so. Reality is what it is, so we ought to spend the important time to find answers and act on them. Facing this head on means we embrace the path to truth and discover what matters most. We'll start by exploring the definition of the word.
What Is Truth?
Pilate said to [Jesus], "What is truth?"
How do we answer this challenging question?
Let's start by exploring the definition of true. The following survey of the word's meaning helps us grasp an understanding and application of truth.
- "in accordance with fact or reality."
- "accurate or exact."
- "accurately or without variation
- "being that which is the case rather than what is manifest or assumed"
Truth communicated is our words, accurately representing reality as it is, not as we want or expect it to be. And, since contrast is a powerful way for us to better understand a concept, let's also the opposite of the truth. Here are antonyms of true.
The Opposite of Truth
“The fact is, the truth matters – especially when you’re on the receiving end of a lie.” Ravi Zacharias
When we look at what is the opposite of true, it quickly illuminates a full view of this concept. And like Ravi states, when we're on the other side of truth, we feel the effects of it. The current cries in our country are calling for truth. People crave it from others, but don't always want to disclose it for themselves.
Embrace or Resist?
Imagine a forest with a path through it to the other side. As we traverse through the forest, we can choose to take that path laid before, or we can stumble through the woods when and how we want.
We all stray from that path, but the matter of degree is different based on a variety of contextual elements and individual choices. While we may feel autonomous as we forge our own path, retrospect and reflection quickly show us there was a much easier and better way and one that would have resulted in less suffering for ourselves and pain for those we hurt along the way.
By embracing truth, we have the opportunity to make the most of our life (this one and the next) while also helping others. But, by outright resisting it, it'll lead to dead ends and unfortunate eternal ends.
"Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit." - Paul, The Apostle
For me, there was a season of life where reality crushed me under its weight. I strayed from the path to do my own thing, in my own way, and as I looked down that road, I realized my way was leading to a dark and uninvited destination. It was only truth and its source that saved me.
Truth Saved Me, In A Visceral Way
"Don't trust your feelings." These were my dad's famous words of wisdom to me and my sisters while growing up. It wasn't until the hardship I experienced in the months after shutting down my business where I struggled with anxiety, panic attacks, fear, paranoia and other dramatic emotions that led to a series of roller coaster months in my life, marriage, family, and community. It was in this season where my feelings, emotions, and experiences were diametrically opposed to truth. And I had a choice. Do I succumb to these whims?
After a moment of desperate surrender to God, I was left in a state of despair as I contemplated the dark valley I found myself engulfed in. Most of what my emotions and feelings were telling me were wrong and pushing me down paths that were destructive and problematic. It was in this valley of death, and shortly after a mountaintop experience with God, where truth saved me. It anchored me in this violent spiritual storm. And it was Jesus who held the chain to this anchor.
And while I'm grateful to have not dealt with the challenge of suicidal thoughts and destructive actions, I can easily relate how people without a strong anchoring of truth, go down those paths. If this is all there is, life is meaningless and it is best to simply end it now. But, if this is not all there is, then our life, our very soul matters.
The Most Important Truth
“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father (God) apart from me.” -Jesus
In the exploration of truth, Konrad Adenauer profoundly communicates the truth that matters most. It's the truth we feel and know after we've faced the most difficult of challenges and the hardest of times. In his case, World War 2.
“Outside of the resurrection [of Jesus] I know of no other hope for mankind.” Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor of Germany after the fall of Hitler
Jesus is our source of reality and truth, and the truth is an extension of his nature. What is the most meaningful truth? It's the truth that comes from the creator of all things.
"God did not come to make bad people good, but dead people alive." - Ravi Zacharias
This truth is what anchors our purpose in life. It's what gives us our identity. And this identity is what drives our behavior. To love one another as Jesus has loved us.
While we embrace this truth, this is only the beginning. What comes next is our ongoing effort to align ourselves with the source and the outward flowing truth.
Meaningful Truth Alignment
"Sincerity means that the appearance and the reality are exactly the same." - Oswald Chambers
A compass points north, but when a compass gets misaligned, the way to recalibrate it is by running a magnet alongside it. Overlaying this visual with our discussion, let’s assign truth to our north. The magnet is what we use to align ourselves with the truth. And, various truths have a weight of importance.
Ideally, we tap into the source of all truth, God. His spirit will guide and direct us where we’re “off. We have history, letters, and other works of writing that make up the Bible (book of scriptures). We also have discovery, research of our world and the universe that make up the book of nature. Lastly, we also have our intrinsic values, and experiences that guide us towards reconciling reality.
As Christ followers, we’re called to constantly align ourselves with Truth. And by pursuing Jesus, this will happen organically.
Don't Rely On Our Perspective, Seek Truth Out
"If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair."
We don't know what we don't know. And, it's possible we are self-deceived or ignorant. Actually, it's highly likely. A better question is to ask ourselves is, how self-deceived or ignorant are we? And how much, when it comes to the most meaningful truth of reality?
“Test Everything, Hold Onto What Is Good” - Paul the Apostle.
As we explore truth, we'll meet others with different perspectives. These types of conversations are great for testing our understandings and beliefs because we will either refine our understandings, further embrace them or discard what we know. While it can be scary or intimidating to do this, it's because of our confirmation bias we should seek out disconfirming evidence.
And some of the discussions and debates I've had with people of opposite viewpoints provides me with a richer understanding of the topic. This challenge moves us closer to the truth and away from our comfort zone.
How Far Do We Go To Deliver Truth To Those Who Don't Want To Hear It?
“He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself; and if you gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into you.” - Friedrich Nietzsche
When we know the truth about something, whether it's significant or not, we also can taint that understanding with a desire to be right, or prove ourselves even to our own detriment.
In the previous animated video, there are two wildebeests on the side of a river looking at what appears to be a log. The first wildebeest says it’s a crocodile and the second says it’s a log. They argue back and forth until the crocodile believer jumps on the log up and down to prove it’s a crocodile. As he’s jumping and claiming truth, the crocodile eats him. The other wildebeest now knows the log is actually a crocodile but a new wildebeest enters and says it’s a log and the cycle begins all over.
We don't have to lose ourselves to communicate truth. The good news is truth stands strong on its own. There is no need to force it on someone who is unwilling to hear, embrace, or act upon it.
Instead, let's further understand the truth, take the time to build relationships, share organically as its appropriate, and communicate when there's openness to accept it. This approach will set the stage for others to hear the most meaningful truth of all.