Yesterday I responded to a status on Facebook, and got very soundly put in my place. It was not a FB friend that I really knew. A year or so ago a friend had linked to a picture this guy had shared, and I commented on the picture, and he asked to be my friend because he liked what I said. I thought, “Why not?” and accepted the friend request. So I don’t really know this person, and he doesn’t know me.
The experience was hurtful, especially because the day was very difficult anyway, but it caused me to ponder many things, and I’d like to share them.
First, I’d like to say that I could have misunderstood what the guy was saying on his status. It could have been read two different ways. If read one way, I totally agree with him. If read another way (the way I read it) then I absolutely do not agree with it. I ought to have asked him to clarify, but I didn’t see the other way to read it until I had already responded. However, he also made assumptions about what I said, and he didn’t ask me to clarify either. His assumptions about me were false and his assumptions about what I was saying were incorrect.
What I pondered later is the following:
1. We often react according to our assumptions without really taking time to ponder what the other person actually meant.
2. I think that it can feel good to really put someone in their place when they don’t agree with us. Many times I read comments that are nasty, where people are called morons, idiots, and all sorts of things. What people forget is that the comment was made by a real person, who can be hurt deeply, and people ought not to congratulate themselves for being nasty. Maybe the person doesn’t believe as you do, and maybe what they have written is untrue, inaccurate, simplistic, judgmental, and so forth. There is nothing wrong with disputing what the person said, but it ought to be done in a polite way, with facts proving/disproving the comment laid out. The person’s character ought not to be attacked.
3. We all have a world view, beliefs, assumptions, opinions, experiences, and dysfunctions that we operate out of. There is no way that we can NOT operate out of these things. It’s impossible. And it’s not, in itself, wrong. Our beliefs, etc., are like the operating system of a computer. An operating system dictates how a computer will run. If a computer didn’t have an operating system, it would just be a hunk of nothing, unable to do anything. It NEEDS an operating system. However, not all operating systems are equal. Some have so many problems that they don’t run well. If we didn’t have beliefs, etc., we would not BE, but not every belief is based on the truth.
4. The problem is how we react when we come against another person’s belief system that is different than ours. We humans like to vilify those we disagree with, and we usually emotionally react to what is said and/or to who said it. If a person agrees with us, he is a saint. If he disagrees with us, he is a monster, moron, idiot…We rarely pause to consider whether what is said is TRUE or not. We care more about defending our own personal beliefs than pursuing TRUTH. We search for evidence to support our own beliefs and reject anything that doesn’t support our beliefs. This is intellectually dishonest. I believe that TRUTH can take scrutiny and investigation, and we ought to honestly and objectively research beliefs. If we find that something is TRUE, we ought to believe it wholeheartedly, and if it is is false, we ought to cast it aside even if it’s a favorite belief.
In our homeschool, my son and I have read books written by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn about logic and reasoning called: The Fallacy Detective – Thirty-Five Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning and The Thinking Toolbox – Thirty-Five Lessons That Will Build Your Reasoning Skills. I highly recommend them. We have learned a lot from them and have, at times, been appalled by our bad logic and reasoning skills.
5. People don’t like to consider that they might be wrong. It is very humbling and threatening to acknowledge that we are wrong. However, NO person is always right. We ALL have faults, failures, weaknesses, sins, dysfunctions, and they affect how we see the world. We need to acknowledge when we are wrong.
6. We must be considerate, compassionate, and understanding of others. We must consider that we can be wrong, and acknowledge when we ARE wrong. We must give others freedom to be and believe differently than each other. However, tolerance in itself is not a virtue. It is an insupportable belief because sooner or later a person runs up against a belief he cannot tolerate. In fact, I think some of the most intolerant people are those who are most fiercely vocal about tolerance because they are very intolerant of people who they believe are intolerant. In other words, they are intolerant of people who do not believe as they do.
But if people could be absolutely tolerant, they’d have no beliefs and no ability to act on a belief. They couldn’t discern between one thing and another. They couldn’t support or protest anything because everything would be equally valid. People could do whatever they want, including murder. There could be no science, because science observes physical laws, and who’s to say one law is better than another? We all have to believe something in order to operate.
7. Rather than believe in tolerance, pursue TRUTH. It DOES matter what we believe and do. There IS absolute truth, right and wrong, good and evil, and sooner or later we run up against it. If truth is relative, and we must tolerate EVERYTHING then we have no right to stand for or protest anything. Beliefs can be right or wrong. For example, when I was a child, my family was going on vacation in Northern Michigan. A young guy was also driving north when he flagged my Dad over to the side of the road. My Dad pulled over, and the guy explained that he was driving to California and thought he was lost. He WAS lost, driving in the wrong direction. No matter how far north he drove, he would NOT get to California. He was right to ask for directions, and he was right to TURN AROUND when he learned he was going the wrong way.
8. Sometimes truth is offensive. We don’t always like what we hear. It’s not always pleasant, or comfortable. But Truth is TRUTH whether we agree or disagree, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, whether it comforts or offends. Again, whether we like it or not is not what matters. What matters is whether it is TRUE or not.
9. People fling the accusation of “judgmental, self-righteous, and condemning” around an awful lot these days–usually when someone doesn’t believe as they do. It IS judgmental, self-righteous, and condemning to believe you are always right, never wrong, and to rudely put down other people who are different. HOWEVER, it is NOT judgmental, self-righteous, or condemning to hold to a belief or opinion.
10. There are certain beliefs that I believe, and I will cling to the beliefs no matter what it costs me because I am convinced that they are true. There are other things that I disbelieve because I am convinced they are wrong. There are many things that I am unsure of or that I agree to disagree on. I try my best to pursue truth instead of make “facts” fit my personal beliefs. I recognize that I am not always right; I try to acknowledge when I am wrong. When I believe I am correct, I will state my beliefs, and I will not be ashamed of my beliefs.
11. Others have the right to disagree with me, and while I may not agree with them, I will defend their freedom to disagree. Why? Because God has given us freewill, and this means that we have been given the freedom to accept or reject Him–He woos, He doesn’t FORCE. If He can give this freedom to humanity, I can give this freedom to you. Freedom means allowing others to have different beliefs.
12. In my opinion, debate, discussion, and questions are healthy, and we ought not to shut down differences of opinion.
13. Allowing you freedom to believe what you believe does NOT mean that I think you are right. I do NOT believe that every belief is based on TRUTH. Not all beliefs are equal. However, I don’t think it’s my place to FORCE you to believe my way or to condemn you when you don’t. (And it’s not your place to force or condemn me.) I can state my beliefs, and I can discuss, question, and challenge, but not force. People can’t really be forced to believe a certain way anyway. They can only be forced to outwardly conform.
14. There is a difference between opinion and TRUTH. Opinion is what I think about something. It can be based on truth or based on error. It can be right or wrong. Many times, it’s merely a matter of preference. I might like meat and you might be a vegan. There is no right or wrong here–it’s preference. TRUTH, on the other hand, is not opinion. Something is TRUE (or not) no matter what I like or dislike about it, and no matter whether I believe it or not. I might believe that 2+2 = 7, but it’s not TRUE, it’s WRONG. I might believe that gravity doesn’t exist, but if I jump out of a 20 story building, I will discover I was wrong. When I write about something I think is TRUE, I try to write thoroughly (and maybe too lengthily?) because I want to explain why I believe as I do, and on what I base my beliefs. I want you to know how I reached my conclusions. I give sources because I want you to check it out if you wish. I don’t want to present my opinions as if they were TRUTH.
Back to the FB thing. I acknowledge that I might have misunderstood the guy’s status. If so, I am very sorry. However, despite his assumptions, I know that I did not respond self-righteously or judgmentally. I did not share Scripture in order to make others feel that they do not read or understand the Bible. I tried to be thorough in siting the background and sources of my beliefs because no belief comes from no where; they all come out of something–some time or place or belief. I shared Scripture because I believe that a person ought not to accept every belief or opinion without CHECKING IT OUT. I based what I said on my understanding of the verses I listed, and I wanted others to have the opportunity to research my sources and findings in order to determine for themselves whether what I said was TRUE or not. I do not want people to take my word for it. I can be wrong. I do not believe my comment was offensive–unless, of course, a person believes that my belief is offensive. My beliefs are either true or false. So research it honestly and objectively. If what I say is true, believe it. If what I say is false, prove me wrong. Tell me what you base your beliefs on so I can research what and why you believe as you do.
Until then, I stand by what I said and how I said it because I know I wrote with love and I think that what I said is true.