To Live Freely: Part Nine

Turning Inward)

I have spent the past while examining the principle of truthfulness in broad strokes. I have explored why it is a moral ideal, and why it is beneficial to society as a whole. But people are brought into alignment with truth on an individual basis, and one of the first truths that we must resolve ourselves to is the truth of who we are. Given that, I am going to shift gears with the rest of this series to examine truth within the self.

And the fact is, probably very few readers had any disagreement with my thesis at the beginning of this series. You probably agreed that only a life founded on truth is truly free. This is the sort of statement that we hear and nod along to without a second thought. Something inside of us just intuitively knows that this is the case.

And yet…if we get truly honest, none of us live in accordance with this principle perfectly, and few of us even try. We say that embracing the hard truths is essential for a stable and thriving life, but then we shirk those hard truths at every turn. We preach principles that we do not abide by and renounce the very behaviors that we do. Lying, cheating, and stealing, though we aver it is wrong to lie, cheat, and steal. We try to hide these shameful behaviors from the world. We try to hide them from ourselves, looking for a distraction any time our conscience tries to show us what we are doing. And then, when a light does manage to shine upon our wrongs we make excuses, brushing them off as inconsequential or permitted due to our circumstance. In short, we are hypocrites all!

The Part That Resonates)

So why do we so readily agree with the statement that we should all live in truth?! Why do we have such an immediate agreement to something in principle, but then a reluctance to agree with it in our practice? I see this phenomenon as the clearest evidence that people are divided beings. Every individual has two parts hidden within, and though they belong to the same person, those parts don’t agree with one another at all.

I feel this dual nature is what Paul was speaking to when he famously wrote “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I” (Romans 7:15). There is a very real part of us that recognizes and responds to truth. That part is most manifest when we hear a nugget of pure wisdom and we intuitively know that it is right, not even requiring any sort of proof. That part of us just knows what is true and it wants to live in harmony with that truth.

But then there is another part that doesn’t fully believe in this concept. Part of us believes that even if truth is the fundamental foundation of the world as a whole, that it can still cheat that system. It thinks that it can fool the world into giving us what we want.

Of course, these two sides are at complete odds to one another. On the one hand we believe that adherence to the truth is the principle by which we obtain all that we desire, on the other hand we also think we can get what we want by trespassing that very same principle.

Getting Curious)

The part of you that thinks you can prosper by denying your conscience doesn’t like to be examined. When asked why we do the things that we know are wrong, why we advocate for behaviors but then don’t follow them, we tend to squirm beneath the light and try to wriggle away.

But if you are ever to overcome these baser instincts, you’ve got to start taking them head-on. An excellent first step would be to acknowledge that you do exactly the hypocritical sort of behavior that we’ve been examining, and then meditate as to why you do it. Without judgment, ask yourself “why do I think truth is fundamental to happiness, but still shirk from the truth in these certain areas of my life?” At some point we must all contemplate why we do the things that we do. At some point we have got to own up to our inconsistencies. For simply acknowledging our own untruthfulness is the first step towards becoming truthful.

To Live Freely: Part Eight

I am concluding the section of this study where I examine the ways that we set others upon false foundations and all the negative consequences that follow. I’ve considered individual cases thus far, but now I want to turn my scope broader. After all, one way to prove the invalidity of a proposition is to apply it on a universal scale and then see if it maintains its original appeal. With today’s post I will hold the philosophy of the “helpful lie” to this universally-applied metric and see what the result of it is.

Applied in Reverse)

Suppose a religion were to have as one of its tenets that all other religious persuasions ought to be suppressed or destroyed. Clearly things would not work out so well for the members of that same religion if everyone else adopted the same principle towards them! It is a self-destructive policy, because it cannot be applied in reverse without destroying the originator. On the other hand, a religion having a fundamental tenet that there should be religious freedom for all others would be itself benefited and protected if the same principle were applied back to it again.

So I say to the person that believes in using beneficial lies to protect other people, you would do well to consider how you would feel if this same principle was applied back towards yourself, and also universally to all other people. You might say that you are comfortable with people telling you the same sort of lies that you tell to others, but that isn’t a fair comparison. Your idea of what is okay to lie about is your own personal opinion, so to be consistent you would have to be accepting of other people using their own judgment as to what is appropriate to lie to you about. Also, you might feel you could trust the decisions of those who are equal to you in intelligence and morality, but that also isn’t a fair comparison. You are less intelligent and moral than some of those that you lie to, so you must consider how you would feel being at the mercy of those who are less intelligent and moral than you.

Does that sound like a comfortable proposition, being subjected to the false realities concocted by the basest and meanest of society, entirely according to their own opinion and judgment? I’m certain it does not!

When one supports themself in telling a “white lie,” they give all other people permission to do the same, and that’s really not a trend that ought to be being perpetuated. On the other hand, when one firmly decides to tell the truth, they revoke the right of all others to lie. If enough of us were to insist on truth-telling for ourselves, and renounce lying on the part of others, we would likely start to see a ripple of truthfulness throughout our society. Convictions, once held by enough people, influence even those who have not become totally committed to them. And even if we don’t reach the point of mass adoption, at least those who perpetuate honesty will be living in a accordance with a principle that is constructive, not destructive.

Lies Upon Lies)

But let us go back to this notion of lies being told at all levels of our society. I have already discussed in a previous post how a lie, by its definition, separates everyone that stands upon it from the ground level of life as it really is. Everyone who believes in the lie is now out on a ledge which might break under its own weight, particularly as more and more people take residence upon it.

And now, extend that with the realization that many people who are already founded upon a lie are also telling additional lies upon it. People are exponentially multiplying the confusion, carving out more and more from the true foundation, extending ledges out upon ledges, building their deceitful worlds without any knowledge of where the center of balance even is. At some point, we will have the straw that breaks society’s back, and all will crumble in violence and chaos.

And I’m not merely saying that from a theoretical perspective, I believe the notion is borne out by a simple examination of history. I feel that these compounded lies are the only way to explain such collective insanity as was seen at Auschwitz and the Gulag. The deceit might have seemed “harmless” enough at first, a simple mischaracterization of national pride or social inequity. But then that deluded premise was compounded with faulty reasoning for how to address the issue and aggressively expanded by the masses taking hold of the idea, until an entirely untenable reality was force upon millions, killing countless of innocents and eventually collapsing the entire experiment under its own weight.

The only system which is sure to be equal and fair to everyone, the only one that is sure to be founded on solid bedrock, is the one that stands firmly on the ground of the truth. That truth may be unpleasant, and without any simple solutions, but dealing with it directly is the only possible way to make genuine progress. All other strategies are temporary structures, at times very pretty, but all of them doomed to fall.

Evolving Your Beliefs- John 6:60-61, 65-66

Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?
And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

COMMENTARY

This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
We learn from this passage that Jesus lost many of his followers after teaching a controversial principle of the gospel. The offending doctrine was that of the sacrament. He had just taught the need to partake of his flesh and blood, so that his disciples could live through him.
Interestingly, the ancient Jews had been being prepared to receive this doctrine for millennia, as the consumption of sacrificial animals was a core element of temple worship. Perhaps they were too attached to this shadow of the true principle, to then accept the fully embodied version when it came to them.

No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
One day, like these disciples, we will each realize that we have misunderstood one principle of the gospel or another. Which principle you stumble over will probably be different from the one that challenges me. Perhaps I have not correctly perceived grace, or repentance, or tithing. Perhaps you have misunderstood faith, or the Holy Spirit, or sacrifice.
Proper understanding of these, and all other principles, can only come from one source. As Jesus explained, God Himself must enlighten our minds and hearts to receive pure truth.
The question is how we will respond when that greater understanding is presented to us. Everyone thinks that they will accept truth when they find it, but it turns out that many of us are more attached to what we thought was right, than what is actually right.

Justice and Mercy- Question

If there’s one principle in the gospel we love, it is mercy. And if there is one that we fear, it is justice. Yet both of these principles are of God, and so we must assume that both of them are good. Though Satan has many creations in this world, Justice is not one of them.

In fact, the more I think about these two principles, the more I start to think that they are far more similar to one another than they first appear. Honestly I think they might just be two sides of the exact same coin. Distinct from one another, yes, but rooted in the exact same law.

Throughout this study we will take a closer look at each, the systems by which they operate, the opportunities to use both for our advantage, and the way that each intersects at the moment of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. In the meanwhile I’d love to hear your take on Justice and Mercy. What are ways you have been blessed by each? Are there times where you have seen that Justice to one person appears as Mercy to another?