Truth. It is what it is. And yet these days it’s become rather subjective—debates often end with statements like “well, that’s your truth and this is mine.”
Now, if we’re talking about our own story, our own history, or our own feelings then sure, we have our truth. But when we’re talking about objective reality, we don’t. Something is either true or it isn’t. Belief has nothing to do with it. Something false does not become true because everyone believes it, nor does something true become false if no one does.
Opinions, Prejudices, Feelings, and Facts
In human relationships, as in religion and politics, many people have strong opinions. And those opinions are informed by prejudices, feelings, and, once in a while, by facts. Too often, facts take a back seat to our feelings. For instance, if someone says they will call and they don’t, you can feel hurt, abandoned, disrespected, and unloved. That’s a true reflection of what you feel, but may not always be a true reflection of what the absence of the call actually meant. After all, stuff happens, communication is not always clear and people simply mess up at times with no bad intention. I’ve seen such situations many times deteriorate into broken relationships when a quick look at facts could have mitigated or resolved the problem altogether.
We know division is the devil’s calling card. It’s unmistakable. If you don’t believe me just take on a project that serves God and seeks to save souls. Division will come out of left field when you least expect it and from people whom you would never expect. Petty arguments. Distrust. Egos—oh the egos! It’s an attempt by the enemy to divide and conquer.
It happens in families all the time. Small disagreements, jealousy, and sibling rivalry are nothing new. More and more these days division is happening over political and moral disagreements. Division is being fomented along racial lines and through class envy. The tragic history of Rwanda is instructive for us today. Families and neighbors, pitted against one another by forces with that very intention, led to unspeakable bloodshed and carnage.
So how do we protect ourselves and the integrity of our relationships? Here are a few suggestions.
Step 1: Open Your Mind
Take a look at the “facts” put before you. Are they indeed actually facts? What is their source? And is that source a direct and actual source, or a third party with an opinion or perhaps an agenda? Is the source truly reliable?
Step 2: Differentiate Between Facts and Feelings
If you can put the words “I think” or “I feel” in front of those “facts,” then it is very likely they aren’t facts at all, but opinions or your feelings about what you perceive. Facts should have something objective to back them up—actual evidence. Even eye-witness reports may not be reliable when for many people with agendas, lying may be an acceptable means to what they may consider justifiable ends.
When our emotions get involved, our clarity of thought can become very clouded. Start by writing down on paper exactly what you are upset about. Then run those facts through a process of analysis:
- What is the source of this information?
- Who made me aware of it and do they have an agenda?
- Is it consistent with what I know about the person(s) involved?
- Could there be other explanations?
Step 3: Communicate Clearly
As referenced above, writing down what you are upset about and what you would like the other person(s) to understand or do, can help keep you focused and keep you from going off on tangents that may be emotional, irrelevant, and ultimately detrimental to your case. When we’re upset we tend to bring up everything at once (especially if we’ve been avoiding conflict or letting grievances build up). That’s a huge mistake. Staying on point enables us to solve one problem at a time more effectively. If the problem is part of a pattern of behaviors, then that can be addressed more generally. In such cases, having a counselor or therapist involved to guide the process may be wise.
Simply stating how you feel and why is way more effective than beginning with an accusation. Start by saying something like, “When this happened, I felt this way”. You want to foster communication and understanding so be careful not to put the other person on the defensive. That will shut down communication and lead to more frustration and resentment.
Step 4: Guard Your Heart
Let’s face it, when our emotions are involved we can become over sensitized and less rational. Understand that and take it into account. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or out of control, it’s a sign there may be more to the incident bothering you than you realize. Perhaps you’re reacting to a pattern of behavior, a past experience with someone else, or there are other things going on in other areas of your life that are compromising your mood and coping abilities.
Remember, when you are very emotional, it’s easy for the evil one to attack and exploit your emotions to further discord and division. Be on guard.
Step 5: Pray for Truth
This is where prayer comes in and is so critically important. First, taking your concerns to the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. God is Truth and always has your best interests at heart. No matter how hopeless, he always has a solution. Believe that.
Ask him to enlighten you to the truth of the matter and to show you your heart— your areas of woundedness, of pride, and of fear which may be involved. What other hidden factors are in play? Ask him to reveal them.
So often our biggest challenge is fear. Fear can be a powerful slave master. And when we focus on our fears, they tend to magnify. But the Lord’s perfect love casts out all fear. That’s where you should focus and allow God, in his goodness to magnify your faith.
Remember, God makes all things work together for the good of those who love him. All things…. The battle is already won.