Seeing the best in life's challenges


on November 17, 2011

I find this a fascinating subject.  There is so much conflicting information in the world today.  How does one decide what is true and what is false?  What is believable?  Who can you trust?

The easiest way to determine credibility is by association.  We can assume that ALL persons associated with a certain group or label or background are credible, or not.  All girl scouts are honest.  All senior citizens are wise.  All drug addicts are unreliable.  All doctors give good medical advice.  The teacher is always right.  He has a degree in that, so he must know what he’s talking about.  Experts are always right.

We all know that blanket generalizations of who you can trust aren’t always accurate.  But we tend to follow them until we learn otherwise.  Face it, investigating every source of information would be just exhausting and impossible.  We have to make value judgments about who we can and can’t trust, or we couldn’t function!  But we all know these generalizations sometimes don’t work, and sometimes the consequences can be bad!

I would argue that deciding whether a SOURCE is credible is different than determining whether a message rings true.  Is a source you believe is reliable ALWAYS right?

If you decide someone is credible, do you believe EVERYTHING they say?

Well, let’s do a little exercise in pushing the limits of our open minds…..NOTHING shuts down an open mind faster than politics or religion….right?

So here’s an interesting test, because it involves both politics and religion.  Following is a quote.  The subject matter is religious (a verse from the Bible) and the person who said it is/was a well-known politician.  Read it.  Do you agree or not?

“But the most important thing is what St. Paul said.  He’s the most important Christian writer.  His words are written closest in time to when Jesus was alive – the Pauline letters.  That great long chapter, the 13th chapter of First Corinthians, which is about love, which is often read at weddings – you know, love is not boastful or jealous, really is wrongly read at weddings, because it’s not about romantic love.  It’s about agape, the love of community, a loving attitude toward your fellow human being.  The last verse that everybody knows is “and now abideth faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love.”  For a politician or a citizen, it’s not the most important (verse).  In the two verses above it, Paul talks about comparing life on earth with life in heaven with God, and in the King James version, he says, “For now I see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face;  now I know in part; but then I will know even as also I am known.”

Why is it important to have a loving attitude toward all human beings?  Because you see through a glass darkly.  Because human beings are fallible and make their very best effort.  So I think people should carry their faith and their values into politics, but there needs to be enough humility to know, just as St. Paul said, you are not in possession of the absolute truth.  I don’t care if you’re a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican.  I don’t care if you’re a Muslim, Christian or Jew.  Or Baha’i, Hindu or Buddhist.  You are not in possession of the absolute truth.  You see through a glass darkly.  You know it in part.  That means that you might be wrong.  Once you recognize that you might be wrong, you can deal with anybody, work out anything and go forward, even as you fight hard for what you believe is right.  It’s the single most important lesson for democratic societies in a time of resurgent religiosity.  Once you accept that, all else is possible.  Once you reject it, you’re going to have chaos, conflict, anarchy, violence or, in the context of American politics, bitter polarization and personal vilification.   And it’s totally unnecessary.  All you’ve got to do is give that up.  Then you can take your values to work and do the best you can.”

–Ladies’ Home Journal, November 2005, page 155

Does it frustrate you that you don’t know who said this?  Have you made an assumption about who it is? Are you afraid of who you might be agreeing with?  Why does it matter who said it?  What if it’s not who you think?  Would that change whether you agree or disagree with the message?

What do you think?

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