The word “truth” seems easy enough to define. I define it as being the correct knowledge of things as they are, were, and will be. An orange can be sitting on a table and that’s the truth, regardless of who sees it, who doesn’t see it, and who thinks it’s an apple. Truth exists independantly of people – so if a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, amazingly enough, it actually does make a sound.
My perception and interpretation of the truth is irrelevant to the truth itself since I exist independantly of the truth I am perceiving. If I think it’s an apple on the table, that has no effect whatsoever upon the orange that’s actually sitting there. It may have an effect upon me and upon the apple-lovers who I tell about it though.
If truth is such an easy concept to grasp, why is the truth at times so difficult to find? I have been wondering this for several years now. This has been in the context of finding spiritual truth as well as the truth of world events such as 9/11, etc. Through my interactions with people who are seeking truth as well as looking at myself seeking the truth, I have found several things that have kept me and others from finding the truth.
“I don’t know.” It’s such a simple phrase, why is it so difficult to say? … “I was wrong.” Also very simple. The inability to say these things hits at the core of why pride keeps me and others from finding the truth. It forces me to make up the parts of the puzzle that are missing instead of admitting I don’t know the answers.
Some examples: Instead of saying “The government is out to get me.” I could say, “I don’t know what’s in the hearts of other people (or the government).” “I don’t know how many columns were severed in each building on 9/11.” “I don’t know if there are chemicals in the contrails or not.” “I don’t know if the government is plotting to get me” “I don’t know how hot the fires were on 9/11.” “I don’t know what caused debris to shoot out of the windows on 9/11.” “I don’t know where the sulfur in the samples came from.”
If we can simply accept the fact that we don’t know everything like God does, the truth will not continue to be hidden by the false reality I have painted in its place.
Fear, Selfishness, Consequences, Vested Interests
Sometimes masked as apathy, fear keeps me from wanting to see the truth… “If the government did 9/11, I’m not safe!” “If the muslim extremeists did it, then I’m wrong and people will think I’m not important.”
“I’ve put my career on the line – I have to make this work or I’ll loose my job and/or my reputation.” “I’m selling DVD’s so in order to make money, I have to sell this theory.”
Hatred seems to make people want to do the opposite of what the person they’re hating wants. This manifests itself as teenage rebellion and arguing just to argue, for example. I have been in situations where I hate the person enough to just want to win an argument – nothing else matters, not even the truth. The truth can even be bent just a little so that we can rationalize our lack of integrity. We can cut and paste just certain parts of a quote to make a point that will surely put the other guy in checkmate and we’ll win the argument!
Self Worth / Savior complex
“If I uncover this, I’ll be important and famous.” “If I’m the only one who has figured this out, I will save everyone else from their ignorance – that will prove that I’m important.” “If I can figure this out, people will think I’m smart.”
The desire to derive self worth from saving others is one of the strongest desires I have encountered. If I feel worthless or unworthy, I can temporarily help myself feel better by saving other people from their own ignorance. Warning people is fine as long as it’s not an addiction. If it’s an addiction, people tend to invent information and invent crisis in order to have an excuse to go around saving people and feeling worth while. Self worth can only come from the Atonement of Christ. If I truly believe that He died for me – for me – then I will not have to derive my self worth from anything else.
This is what everyone thinks their motivation for seeking truth is: love for their fellow beings. Sometimes it actually is their motivation and it could in reality be a mix of love and hate and fear and the other things above. Regardless of the truth of our motivations, most people I’ve run into, including myself, think we’re doing it out of love for our fellow man – uncovering something that everyone else needs to know so that they’ll not be harmed by their ignorance. This can be linked to pride in that we hide our true motivation (deriving self worth from saving others, etc.) under a false covering of doing it out of love for our fellow man.
How do we hide from the truth?
Sometimes when my motives are not completely based in love, I and others I have seen use a pattern to avoid the truth from being exposed. We many times ignore or minimize the point at hand and bring up several other points instead. This leaves the point at hand unresolved and shrouded in mystery while keeping our opponent off balance and overwhelmed.
Sometimes we blindly trust what we already agree with and blindly reject what we don’t already agree with. This is called confirmation bias.
Talking to people who can’t get us closer to the truth. For example, discussing among like-minded people the details of a situation instead of talking to the person who was actually there or an expert who could explain how things really work.
Logical fallacies – Sometimes instead of debating the evidence, we attack the person we’re talking to. This is an ad hominem logical fallacy and it’s common but the argument should be about the evidence, not about the people arguing. Sometimes we use association fallacy – or guilt by association, which would be like saying, for example, that since some religious people are wrong, you must be wrong as well since you’re a religious person. Appeal to fear is another logical fallacy where a person uses fear to persuade their opponent instead of the facts. Wikipedia has dozens more fallacies that can be used to hide from the truth.
So, now that we can see some of the motivations behind seeking truth and how most of those can actually keep us from the truth, how do we honestly figure out which motivations are driving us? Since many of us pridefully think that our only motivation is love for our fellow man, how can we find out the truth?
One way is to see how a person acts when given true evidence that goes counter to their current theory. If they take it in, see what’s there, and are willing to throw away their theory if that evidence in fact is true, then they are more likley driven by love.