When individuals, alone, or as part of a company, political party, or government present untrue or inaccurate information to the public through the media or other avenues, inevitably there is damage – individuals hurt, jobs lost, economies damaged, communities destroyed. The most recent example being the German car manufacturer, Volkswagen, and the individuals within it who were willing to lie about the company’s vehicles meeting the emissions needed to be sold in certain countries. Not telling the truth damaged the company’s reputation and prosperity, public safety, and the economy in communities where Volkswagens were manufactured and sold.
You and I may not have been damaged in any way by this scandal, but every day we are challenged to discern if what we are being told is the truth – in the media, at city council meetings, by a salesman, by our kids.
What is truth? How we discern and understand it is explored in a Christian Science Monitor article (August 8, 2016) with the headline: “Keeping Facts in the Idea Zone.”
The article includes this profound statement by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “You are entitled to your own opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts,” – reminding the reader not only to analyze how the presenter gathered his or her facts but also to analyze what was presented as fact a little more thoughtfully than often happens today.
Like others, I’ve found that my view of truth matters. I find that my view of a person, issue, or event is developed and held in light of my level of information, how I view the ethics surrounding the situation, and the moral philosophy of the person I am viewing. As the credible information level builds, facts become more stable and reliable. Reflecting on the different beliefs and theories in all situations allows a person to navigate life with more clarity and consistency.
But is there something even greater than human reasoning and evaluation that is needed to bring us to the heart of truth? I’ve found that spiritual discernment is another important aspect of evaluating the information presented to me.
One experience I had some years ago is a good example of how this approach can result in outcomes where the truth of a murky situation becomes clear. My wife and I were engaged in a real estate transaction for a new tract home in Southern California. We had just signed all the papers and given our down payment. But as we prayed further and engaged in more in-depth research into the transaction and the contractor/developer, we found honesty had been lacking in the information he had presented to us. Further prayer led us to request a late Saturday evening meeting with him and ask for our money back and to cancel the transaction. He agreed to our requests, and once the papers were negated, we had a peaceful evening at home. The next morning the media reported that the developer had been in violation of real estate law and had left the country just after meeting with us.
This active listening and prayer, instrumental to the harmonious progression and outcome of any situation, is summed up so concisely in Proverbs: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
Perhaps one of the biggest areas in our lives where we are looking for truth is in what we read, hear, and see about how to maintain or restore our health. Over one hundred years ago, Mary Baker Eddy, a devout Christian who had experienced prolonged illness, financial insecurity, and homelessness, searched the Scriptures for years for clarity about her relationship to God to find healing to address these issues. The truth she found was that God was all, God was good, and man was the reflection of this infinite, all-powerful God. This conclusion didn’t come from evaluating the hard “facts” around her – how much money she had or how long she’d struggled with an illness. It came from time spent in communion with God, where a new view of reality emerged.
When she later reflected on what she experienced and wrote about this discovery, she stated, “…when I practiced its precepts, healing the sick and reforming the sinner, then I learned the truth of what I had written.” In other words, she had discerned truth in her prayers, then she tested the truth she had found to determine if it had a tangible healing impact. When it did, she felt she could trust this truth.
Finding trustworthy facts continues to be important to me in every aspect of my life. As we each seek truth amid the information and misinformation coming at us from all quarters, spiritual discernment can definitely help any one of us find a secure path to something as big as our health or as minor as a real estate transaction.