Over the last few months I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. One major theme that has come again to the forefront of my meditations is the collision I find between my beliefs and the world around me.
No one wants to be the voice that dissents with all the others around—it an uncomfortable life, and in past ages even a dangerous one.
Even now, living in Western culture, it is becoming more and more dangerous to dissent with common views. If you care about truth—not what people say is true, but actual truth—you have few allies.
Just because you believe something doesn’t make it true. I’m fully aware this applies to me, too—and I have spent most of my adult life asking questions about what I believe. I continue to do so. I have undergone a few major progressions of worldview in the last decade as a result.
I’ve come to believe that being a lover of truth is a rare thing, in itself. Why? Because it is more comfortable; there is far less resistance, and no fight.
When you are a lover of truth, you must contend for it, both within and without. Within, because a lover of truth must realise that they cannot know everything, and to continue both increasing in their knowledge of truth while also honestly examining what they already hold to be true as still being true. Without—well, whenever you assert a truth, someone is likely to try and tear it down.
But these contentions are healthy and even welcome for the lover of truth, as they do not allow one to fall complacent in one’s beliefs. Which brings me back to my original thought: it is not safe to be divergent in today’s culture.
Because most people, whatever they love, are not lovers of truth. We think we are—that is what I’m proposing about myself, here—but we also love other things more.
Comfort. Peace. Acceptance. Entertainment. Safety. Easy money. All of these things we actively pursue, and all of these things are threatened by reality in one way or another.
When you are faced with a choice, what determines whether you choose to accept the truth, or reject it? I believe it comes down to what you want more, what you desire—if rejecting the truth means that you can stay comfortable, you will reject the truth. If, however, you believe that accepting the truth is more advantageous, you will accept the truth and absorb the discomfort.
This is why it is so difficult to be a lover of truth. Truth-lovers refuse to accept a conclusion without adequate premises, even to the detriment of their own convenience. But someone who values anything above the truth refuses to reject an incorrect conclusion or untenable premise. This creates a tension—both sides of the debate are unwilling to cede their position as wrong.
But the reason that each side refuse to give in is fundamentally different. Truth-lovers are willing to be proved wrong—all that is needed is a solid, reasonable argument. Yes, your pride might be stung when you’re proven wrong—but at the same time, I can attest from experience it’s a huge relief. Truth lovers don’t want to be wrong, but if they are wrong, being proved wrong is far better than the alternative.
Truth-blind people, however, are unwilling to be proved wrong. Instead, since they cannot change the truth, the must hide it, somehow.
We all have a little bit of truth-blindness in us. We’ve all had those conversations that get us down so deep that we feel like if we finally accept a truth that the whole foundation of our lives will be taken out from under our feet. I think we all, at one time or another, have given in to the fear of being wrong, and shunned the truth.
Which brings us to what I really want to say.
I’m tired of feeling like I have to be silent. It may be a bromide, but “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” (who said it?) seems to apply, here.
I’ve become somewhat better over the years at keeping my mouth shut when it’s not absolutely necessary to speak; sometimes I think that I take it too far, now. Presently, I find that I often let what people assume to be truisms be spoken unchallenged—and that is wrong.
Why is it wrong? Because it is unloving. It is unloving to let someone go on believing that something is true when it is not. It is unloving to let someone act on the assumption of fact without challenging that assumption. If they won’t accept the challenge, there’s not a lot that you can do about that.
That’s not our call, however. As a truth-lover, you can only proclaim the truth, you cannot control what people do with it. We can hope and pray that they accept it and apply it, and we can mourn when they reject it, but ultimately we are unable to save them from their folly.
And part of their folly is hating those who love the truth.
That is a truth that truth-lovers must accept, sooner or later: we will bear the brunt of their anger. Regardless of how we act, some will call us callous. They’ll call us haters. Bigots. Anti-social. Regressive, degenerate, idealistic, backwards, unenlightened, idiotic; so on and so forth. What is actually true doesn’t matter—what they say and feel to be true will be the rule.
Even the people you thought were your friends will push you away—because when faced with your love for truth, they need a way out.
Arrogance is a real danger. Pride is the biggest enemy of truth, and truth-lovers must be ever vigilant. Humility is the only attitude which allows us to honestly take stock of ourselves and listen to others.
But humility won’t spare truth-lovers from hatred; we must either give in, or face it down, and only one of those options means that you remain a truth-lover.
Stand firm, truth-lovers. Pursue it, argue it, defend it, fight for it. Truth is not relative, it does not fluctuate. Only our knowledge of truth can change, knowing more or less of it.