Trust and truth.

Who do you trust to tell you the truth? Assuming you want to know and hear the truth, I mean. How do you know the truth when you hear it? What is “truth,” anyway? I guess that’s a better place to start. You kind of have to agree on what truth is before you can have a conversation about it… so I looked it up. According to Merriam-Webster

Simple Definition of TRUTH
the truth : the real facts about something : the things that are true
: the quality or state of being true
: a statement or idea that is true or accepted as true

And then to take it one step further… one of the definitions of TRUE:

a (1) :  being in accordance with the actual state of affairs <true description> (2) :  conformable to an essential reality (3) :  fully realized or fulfilled <dreams come true>b :  ideal, essential c :  being that which is the case rather than what is manifest or assumed <the truedimension of the problem>d :  consistent <true to character>

So, for the sake of this post, when I say “the truth,” what I mean is a factual account, whether of an occurrence, that person’s feelings for you… you get the idea. What really happened, how they really think or feel about you (at that moment, since those things change and are way more fluid than an event or occurrence), stuff like that.

Oh, and (what I think is) an important reminder/clarification: Opinions are not facts, and feelings are not evidence. 

Back to the original questions. Those people you trust… why do you trust them to tell you the truth? Why do you trust them at all?

I started thinking about this after the events of the last week and a few days (ahemELECTIONahem). Temperatures are running so high, everyone is so sure they’re espousing truths and condemning the liars – you know, basically anyone who disagrees – that I had to stop and evaluate some things. Like, why do people believe what they believe?

 

I just watched a really good video about how we decide what to believe. He talks about the four things that go into testing/examining a claim being made: intuition (gut feeling); authority (relying on credibility of source); logic (systematic reasoning); and evidence (verifiable information). What’s interesting to me is that only one of those four things involves actual facts; the other three are basically dependent upon you, your brain, your feelings, and your own past experiences.

How reliable are your gut feelings? Where do they come from, and what life experience colors your perception there? Are you aware of the emotional and mental lenses in place when you’re evaluating a claim?

Why are certain sources more credible to you than others? Why does one person trust Fox News implicitly, while another person places their confidence in PBS?

Is logic inherent in human beings, or is it learned? Is what’s logical to you, also logical to everyone else? Or is that a personal thing based on experience again? I mean, I know there have been many times when something I did – a project I developed, a route I took to get somewhere, the order instilled in my closet by hanging things in a certain way – seemed completely logical to me, but it may very well make no sense to anyone else.

So, then we’re left with evidence. Verifiable information. On the surface, this seems straightforward (ZOMG FACTS), but then, I guess we have to lend credence to the fact that if there are two witnesses to the same event, what they’d each report back could very well be completely opposite from the other depending on their personal spin. So, then, does evidence mean what we see with our own eyes? How can we be sure we’re witnessing something and evaluating it without prejudice or bias?

I’m not getting too far into that here, though, because what I think happens is that most people are relying on gut feelings and what they deem to be credible sources in order to decide what they believe. Whether it’s due to information overload, a lack of time for conducting their own research, a lack of interest, a lack of ability (or desire) to do the work themselves, and instead rely on their feelings, and they rely on people who strike them as trustworthy to tell them what’s true and what’s real. People are reposting things online without verifying validity, and it’s all because of that bastard called confirmation bias. There is SO MUCH OUT THERE… how in the hell do wade through it all to find what’s real, and what’s true?

You see the problem here. And this isn’t a partisan statement, either; everyone is guilty of it, myself included. I have decided which side I’m on, I’ve decided what’s right and wrong, I’ve decided what and who I believe. And not because I’ve done a ton of research and have deemed these sources the most credible, either. I’ve decided what to believe based on my own gut feelings, based on who I’ve deemed credible sources, and based on my own logical conclusions resulting from mild to moderate critical thinking skills.

Which, by the way, isn’t a skill we’re born with; it’s something that has to be taught, and encouraged, and nurtured, and maintained. Critical thought allows you to evaluate effectively, and ideally, get your feelings out of the way to land in a justifiable and reasonable place.

I’ve been trying to make sense of the huge disparity in beliefs in our country. The division is palpable, and the difference between someone like me and someone who heartily embraces DJT and his proposed band of merry bigots feels enormous and overwhelming. I would even go so far as to say, insurmountable (and I am totally okay with that).

Everyone has ideas about why we’re divided and what would fix it, but in my opinion, there’s no fixing it. There’s managing it, there’s overcoming it, there’s governing people into acting right whether they want to or not… but the division, to me, reveals some distinct groups: people who only care about themselves; people who care about others; and people who just don’t care at all. There are people who approach life from a place of love, community, and equity; and there are people who approach life from a place of hatred, fear, and division.

These qualities, these temperaments, these personality types… they drive how you engage with the world. Who knows how we would turn out, what personality traits and world beliefs would come about without the influence of those around us? Are humans born good? Or are we born hating and then hopefully have it loved/nurtured out of us? Or, conversely, are we born loving, and have that abused out of us emotionally, mentally, physically?

I think most of this is taught. Human beings are blank slates when they’re born.  We teach them to love, to respect, to embrace the world and everyone in it… or we teach them to fear, to fight, to find fault in those around them, to compare and to be “better than” instead of “equal.” Or, to deem anyone different as an “other” and certainly “less than.”

And so I guess I’m coming out of this long, rambling train of thought with two things:

  1. A reminder to do better with my own fact-finding and evidence collection with respect to my own beliefs. I’ve got a pretty solid gut reaction, my logic could use a little work, I’m sure, and those credible sources? More of those, please.
  2. A reminder that there’s a lot that goes into what a person believes, and why they believe it, and I would do well to remember that.

It doesn’t mean I’ll ever understand, nor does it mean I won’t challenge what I believe to be wrong, but I guess I’m hoping this will help ME from inserting some of that “better than/worse than/less than” language in my head. Or, at least, keep from inserting it into conversation.

Remember, kids: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

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2 thoughts on “Trust and truth.

  1. I know that I try to be a good person. It’s a personal life goal I struggle with every day. When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time by myself for various reasons – I’m the baby, the only boy, too young to join in, the wrong color, I speak, “funny”, no body likes me. So I watched and listened to people. And I learned valuable observation skills that have helped me throughout my life. I notice things and try to remain objective about those things – why do I see it and know one mentions it? What does it mean and what brought it about? Why am I stuck in my head with my thoughts and everyone else seems to be living life?
    I began to (for me) understand people and their motivations, and no matter what, I felt empathy for everyone. For all that I may or may not have been able to interact with them, I still felt what they felt, which led me to wonder why they felt a that way, and then if I could, I wanted to help or console them.
    Recently, two people I know – one of French heritage that I’ve only spoken with online, and the other of German heritage that’s close enough to me that he’s like a little brother – both reached out to me to understand what people in their lives are now perceiving them to be bad people after they voted for DJT. And this, to the extent that the French one has been removed from the lives of every person of color he’s ever known, and the German one is mad and confused as to why his whole family are now looked at like racists.
    I spent a lot of time thinking very hard about my responses to their questions before answering. I found myself understanding their personal reasons for voting and telling others that they did vote for DJT. I myself cannot condone a lot of what DJT has said and done for decades, nor who he has aligned himself with to shape our country. But I digress. Both men looked to me to explain to them what it’s like to be pre judged based on the color of their skin. How to handle the hate being shown them. To explain to them how people who don’t know them can hate them so readily.
    And I basically told them (without using these exact words, nor mention of color) that they are experiencing what it feels like to be Black in America. And somehow, based upon their current situations and feelings, they understood. And hate it. They both told me that they will strive to assure people that they, “are not like that…” that they are good people, etc.
    And all it took was to publicly acknowledge that hate, oppression, and a whole fuck-ton of ism’s could be overlooked, to bring them both to a place of feeling lost and unsure of their futures.
    For me, I feel almost dirty for spending my time consoling them. I feel like though I have helped them, that I have somehow not helped myself. I am spiritually confused about this. I know that somewhere is an answer that will calm my nerves, but until then, I will continue to observe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My Twitter feed is made up primarily of Black Lives Matter activists and people of color. It is very much intentional, because I am of the belief that the best way to learn what people are experiencing and going through who are different from me in some way is to listen to them (rather than assuming I know what’s best, or what’s really going on). Several of them have said variations of the same thing: that it’s not the job of POC to educate whites on why what they’re doing and saying is wrong, or hurtful. That instead, whites should do the work, do the research, and ideally, take the load off of their shoulders some when it comes to enlightening other white people. I’ve also seen some comments about, “Hey, that fear and unsettled feeling you have because of the election? Welcome to how we feel EVERY DAY.”

      It’s interesting, because on the one hand, I personally prefer to learn about things from the people who are experiencing it. I believe what they’re telling me, and I trust the perspective I gain from it. But there are a lot of white people out there who feel attacked, belittled, intimidated, and threatened by someone of color trying to explain these things to them and the only people they’re going to listen to are other white people.

      So… I appreciate that those two friends of yours felt comfortable (or UNcomfortable) enough to come to you, an established safe person who approaches things so reasonably and thoughtfully, seeking to understand what the backlash is all about with respect to their voting choices. I’m grateful you were there to shine a light on it for them, at least a little bit. But I hate to think they’re coming to you as a person of color, historically disenfranchised, looking for comfort and reassurance about their choices, or that they’re putting the onus on YOU to explain it to them and make them feel better.

      Nothing about this situation is simple, and I’m afraid it’ll get worse before it gets better, but maybe this is the time when we finally do the work – together – to get the deep-seated infection of racism out into the light and starting to heal for real. I have to hope that this time of struggle will be worth it in the end, because the alternative is too awful to consider.

      Liked by 1 person

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