In this world of information-overload and misinformation, it's becoming ever more critical for us to develop the skill to discern truth from lies.
If the world was the way I wanted it, TRUTH would be sprouting and blossoming everywhere like spring flowers. Everyone, everywhere, would always tell the truth regardless of consequences, have no ulterior motives and would never seek to manipulate others.
Alas, the world is a far cry from my dream. 😭 Instead, truth is like a precious hidden treasure and the treasure map in hand seems full of holes.
"Truth and fact aren't the same. If you want truth you have to struggle for it." John Taylor Gatto
Many deny that truth exists at all. In a way, I see their point. Sometimes things are confusing and 'truth' can seem personal or perceptual. What might be true or good for one person may not be good for another. For example, a diet might work for some and not others. The same way with medicine.
Therefore, we can't be arbitrary about everything in life. Yet, without a solid foundation of truth, our lives would be meaningless and our decisions disastrous.
Truth is what really is or what really happened, while facts can help us describe or define truth. Here's a theoretical scenario: I ask my son, "Did you eat a cookie?" At this point, the facts are a cookie is missing from the plate. Now, my son must choose to lead me to the truth or not. "Yes mommy I ate it." or "No mommy the dog ate it."
His answer (truth or lie) doesn't change the facts or what really happened. In this scenario, I will either believe my son is telling the truth or I will seek evidence that tells me otherwise (he has chocolate on his nose).
You can see how difficult the truth can be to discern if there's no 'obvious' evidence. But 99.99% of the time there is evidence but we either don't see it or refuse to believe it.
Here's another theoretical scenario: say you decide gravity isn't real (hey, some don't believe the earth is round) and you want to fly off a cliff without assistance because this seems fun and you believe it's your right to do it without consequences...
What will happen? We are 100% certain this guy will die (truth) if he jumps off that cliff because gravity (fact) is real. It doesn't matter what he believes, the result or evidence is clear and proves the truth (that humans cannot fly off a cliff unaided).
Sometimes truth is challenging to discern because the consequences (or benefits) aren't always obvious or immediate. Yet, things can be disastrous if we don't know the truth. The guy will die if he jumps off the cliff. My son may not be hungry for his nutritious dinner or become accustomed to getting away with lying...
Critical Thinking Skills
We NEED thinking skills to determine what is truthful versus what is false. Here are some of the ways I determine truth and by the way, these also help me have a strong foundation of principles to act on...
I think critically. I don't believe every word I hear. It's good to test things to see if they're true or not (if possible and safe to do so).
I factor in what seems logical. Despite any 'evidence' presented (scientific or not) does it make sense? Does it have clear, sound reasoning to back it up? It shouldn't defy wisdom.
I think ahead to determine possible outcomes and consequences, both short and long term. Should I flirt with someone not my spouse? How will doing that affect my husband, my children?
I meditate on how my beliefs affect me and others. Does it tear down or build others up? Are my beliefs ethical, moral or are they hurtful and self-seeking?
I consider the source of the information. Why do I trust it or them? Are they reliable? Do they admit their errors? No one is perfect...
I consider the motive and who stands to benefit from the information. What do they want from me? An advertisement wants me to buy a product, a politician wants my vote, someone might flatter me not because they care but because they want something. I don't judge everyone's motives but it's good to discern genuine from manipulative people.
I'm leery of sensational information, it's designed to tug at heart strings. I often stop and reflect before determining how it will affect my beliefs and behavior.
I admit I might be wrong. I don't want to push ahead at all costs to avoid looking like a fool. This means I must cultivate humility. The truth often comes from humble people.
I check in with my intuition. Does the information have a ring of truth to it? Does it resonate or does it disturb my gut? It seems we have a built-in sensor that helps us along the way. I fine tune this sensor by being alert and willing to learn.
I don't follow the crowd! The opinions of the masses are heavily manipulated and then pushed onto society by the media.
I find out information for myself and don't just repeat what I've heard, I try to go to the source and listen! It also means not jumping to wrong conclusions until I've heard all sides.
I'm curious, I like talking to people and asking questions. I consider the truth and the lie in every argument. How can I learn if I only consider the opinions of those I agree with? How can I effectively analyze and debate, if I haven't listened to those outside of my normal circle and considered all aspects of an argument? This requires removing emotional attachments to my feelings and beliefs. It doesn't mean I give them up, it actually equips me to discuss them with confidence.
I gather as much data as I can. I often collect my research, thoughts, observations, facts and ideas in a journal for later reference. We can't rely on our memory alone.
Determine what's at stake. Your Health? Future? Happiness? We don't need to be neurotic about the small stuff, but the truth counts when it involves our lives and the lives of others.
We respect science, governments, religions, educational institutions but we recognize that they make mistakes and don't have all the answers. Do your own research. Read the bible for yourself.
I search for the points everyone agrees on and seek to learn from the experiences of others. I don't want to repeat mistakes make but I do want to learn from their successes.
I understand that research, statistics, and scientific studies can be helpful but also flawed, inconsistent, misquoted and misinterpreted.
If it doesn't violate a moral truth of mine, I usually can find a middle road or a balance of both perspectives of an argument. I also acknowledge that sometimes I don't have enough information to know the complete truth and must be patient until more info is discovered.
I hope you have found this list useful. I'm sure I didn't consider every aspect and certainly other wisdom could be added here...
Parents, please don't rely on the school system to teach your children these important life skills. Teach them yourself!!! Check out my homeschool article for more information on whether or not homeschooling is right for your family.
The truth is often clear and simple.
The truth is simple whereas lies require one lie after another to sustain it. I think this throws a lot of people for a loop. We live in a society that glorifies intelligence, sophistication and science. The more college degrees you have and the bigger your vocabulary, then you know better than everyone else...(facts prove otherwise).
Seek truth! It's not impossible to obtain and it's worth the effort! Truth is simple and unemotional but makes our lives fulfilling and happy.
I will continue to update this article as new information comes my way as I'm always learning.
I'm curious to hear how you find truth in your life. Feel free to share your thoughts online on Facebook or Instagram or below by becoming a member of the blog. It's quick, easy and free. It allows you and me to keep your comments and thoughts in one place instead of scattered all over Facebook! 😀
Don't forget to check out some other articles you might have missed...
Harsh Truths From Your Introverted Friends (my post popular post so far 😀)