If everyone’s entitled to define and express their own truth, then there’s no truth for anyone
By Chet Gladkowski
As I was recently scanning the news, one headline really grabbed my attention. The headline “I knew it was my truth”(1) wasn’t in USA Today (circulation 4.1 million), or some other national publication. It was from of our local paper, The Lakeland Ledger, with a circulation of around 40 thousand.
This headline was bold. Bold in words. Bold in typeface. Bold with emotion. I know that it was intentionally put there to grab my attention. And it worked. I stopped and consumed the entire article that exalted the “my truth” point of view.
“My truth” defined
A “my truth” approach to life isn’t anything new. And it isn’t restricted to any one particular topic or side of life. Liberal, conservative. Right, left. I’ve personally heard it used by individuals and groups in reference to race relations, sexual orientation, and even who God is and interpretation of the Bible.
The presupposition behind “my truth” is that their opinion, built on their personal, individual experience, overrules everyone and everything else. Period. Whether expressed or not, “my truth” people are not open to discussion, ideas, or even facts that might contradict their non-negotiable private belief.
This is sometimes called postmodernism. It says that there’s no such thing as absolute truth. Your truth is just that, yours and yours alone. No one has any right, power, or truth that they can say is better than any other.
There are many flavors of “my truth” all around us. One appears in the form of truth only coming from inside you. You don’t have to look for truth, its’ already right there inside you. You can ignore everyone else, all you have to do is listen to yourself. No one else can tell you truth.
There is no truth except the truth that exists within you. Everything else is what someone is telling you.
Neale Donald Walsch, Home with God: In a Life That Never Ends
But the “my truth” premise doesn’t stop there. It goes beyond the four-walls of their life and forces itself on everyone else. Not only does “my truth” rule their lives, but everyone else must bow down to any and all restrictions resulting from their truth.
“My truth” hammers and force their opinion on all outsiders, requiring everyone else to conform. There is no room for compromise. There is no room for friendship. It doesn’t matter what others think or believe. Everyone has to cancel their beliefs in favor of “my truth.”
If there’s only “my truth,” then there is no such thing as “the truth.” Truth is transformed from a sturdy, immovable rock, and morphs into subjective, individual thoughts and feelings. What’s right and wrong can only be agreed upon and enforced by those smart enough to be in agreement with them.
One result of “my truth” is the oppression and marginalization of minority people and their position. Whether it’s 10% or 3.8% of the population, “my truth“ opens them up to ridicule and repressive legislation. Since there is only “my truth,” there is no reason to grant freedom or benefits to anyone else. Minority positions cannot be implemented or said to be true because there is no higher truth that overrules the majority.
“My truth” makes it impossible to stand against and fight injustice or tyranny. If it’s only “my truth” then how do you tell southern whites that slavery and injustice towards blacks is wrong? How do you fight for and demand equal pay and advancement opportunity? How do you tell someone that forced labor or involuntary marriages are wrong? Why and how do you try to eliminate social injustice and human trafficking? After all, it’s “their truth” and you have no moral high ground to stand on.
One final thought about “my truth” proponents. They are not just proclaiming “my truth,” they are proselytizing everyone who would dare to have a different position. They forcefully require conversion to their view of truth and reality. The “my truth” opinion and approach to life pushes everyone and everything to bow to them and their beliefs.
The “my truth” debate is nothing new. Quite the contrary, it’s been going on throughout all civilized time.
when (truth) turns to the twilight world of change and decay, it can only form opinions, its vision is confused and its beliefs shifting, and it seems to lack intelligence.
The Republic, Plato
To Plato, and the other Greek philosophers, truth was something to be sought after and achieved. It wasn’t moving around, based on an individual’s version of “my truth.” They passionately wanted everyone, including governments, to be based on the solid rock of immovable truth.
In the formation of the United States, the Framers unanimously agreed that truth was more than a convenient idea, or some personal preference.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
As a group, they believed and stood behind “these truths” as something to base the formation of a nation. It wasn’t the “my truth” of some 56 independent signers. They didn’t endorse the document and stand behind it’s truth on a whim either. They knew that “these truths” were immovable, never to be altered or shifted.
They believed that “these truths” were also self-evident, available for all to see and believe. By agreeing with and signing this world-shaking declaration, they put their full support behind “these truths” as something that everyone could get behind. Support. Fight for. And even die for.
Martin Luther King, Jr. clearly understood the “my truth” negative influence in our culture. He openly spoke and wrote about “my truth” when it came to equality and freedom for everyone, regardless of race, color, creed.
A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.
Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. April 16, 1963
Dr. King says that there is a higher law, a moral law, the law of God that are the basis of comparing and evaluating not only laws, but also our view of truth.
A Way Forward
As a whole, the Bible clearly and consistently speaks about truth as not just a thing, but also a person. It tells us the unchanging story about a personal, immutable God who loves us from eternity past. And even in the face of our rebellion, he never wavers in His loving commitment to us, sending Jesus to die to repay our debt.
Jesus also claims to personally be “the truth” for all people. Not “my truth” for only a certain segment of the population. He’s just as much “the truth” for non-Christians as He is for Christians.
In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus shows everyone that there are two kinds of people. The first kind are those who live according to their truth, walking away from the injured person. And there was the Samaritan who was empowered by “the truth” of treating our neighbor like we want to be treated.
Paul also talks about living our lives within the Christian community according to “the truth.” But Paul warns about using “the truth” as a bully pulpit to beat others over the head with.
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.
1 Corinthians 8:9 NIV
When you read the phrase “exercise of your rights,” Paul’s using another set of words for “my truth.” He’s warning us that living for ourselves, basing our lives on “my truth” leads to harm for our weaker breather.
In light of “the truth” about God’s personal and loving forgiveness to us, we are to treat people in that same way. We’re to show that same compassion and kindness towards others.
In the end, “my truth” is semantics for “my way.” We need a new narrative, a new way forward, that encourages and rewards selflessness and service to all.
Actually, this isn’t a new narrative. It’s the old, old story of God’s lovingkindness towards us. That’s the direction we need as individuals. As a community. As a nation.
Chet Gladkowski writes and speaks about things that touch us all, with a focus on Jesus Christ being our only hope.
(1) 'I knew it was my truth': Making the transition to chosen name, Gary White, The Ledger