Culturally, we seem to have an issue with the truth. Telling the truth, hearing the truth, believing the truth. We’re stumbling our way around a pretty important and fundamental aspect of a functioning society.
We could blame it on the internet, on theories taught in school, or on a political faction. Whatever you want, really. Or we could put a mirror in front of our own faces and start asking hard questions about hypocrisy and ethics. With as many ethics classes as I see promoted, it shouldn’t be that hard.
First and foremost, it would be to our advantage to stop putting others (or ideas) on pedestals. We have a habit of crowning some people as superior because of an achievement. They might be a great athlete, a smart inventor, an amazing educator, you name it. Appreciating them for that one thing can be fine, but we have a tendency to take it too far and anoint them superior in all things. This is a mistake because what happens when the rug is pulled out from under us -- as it almost always is? We are reminded of society’s perpetual hypocrisy and lack of ethics on an almost weekly basis. In fact, in the last week, I came across no less than nine major news stories involving these very things.
Secondly, we have to stop vilifying people. Every single one of us is flawed (see those nine news stories I just mentioned). While we need boundaries, and law and order, we also need the recognition that someone’s bad choices shouldn’t erase the good things they’ve done. One example may be the current debate on our nation’s Founding Fathers. Did they make some choices that were pretty terrible? Yep (e.g., continuing to own slaves despite recognizing its inherent evil). Did they also make some choices that were powerfully great? Absolutely (e.g., establishing a foundation for a country that allowed people to govern themselves, a very radical idea at the time).
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We can be so quick to judge – good and bad – and want to deal in absolutes. We want to say “A” equals right and “B” equals wrong. I think it makes us feel like we’re in control, like we have a firm footing, like our viewpoint of reality is the right one. But we fail to accept that “A” and “B” might be simultaneously present in the same person or same idea. I believe this is why it has become so hard for us to agree on the truth, to row in the same direction, to feel unified, and to trust.
But I’ll let you in on a little secret: We’re not in control and we’re not always right. None of us.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, I know that. Yet it doesn’t mean we just throw up our hands stop trying. We simply need to try something else.
Which leads me to my third point: Embrace complexity. The truth is very much still out there and available and the best way to uncover and discuss it is to be inquisitive. The world is a colorful place with a lot of options and a lot of stories. “A” and “B” aren’t alone. “C” through “Z” are out there too. Some things are absolute, somethings are not. And they can actually work together.
We will never all agree on everything, which is completely fine. But by asking questions, listening to others, holding the mirrors to our own faces, and leaning on experience while understanding that things change, we can trust, we can feel unified, and we can find the truth.
Rather than always needing to right, I hope we all look at each other as different pieces to the same puzzle. I hope we seek the truth together and fight for it with all our might.
When not living it up as a wife and mom of three, Amanda Godfread is regional director of Make-A-Wish North Dakota and a co-host of the podcast, "Welcome to Our Box."