Life has been full of twists and turns as well as more than a few upheavals in recent months (even years). Most of us have tried to grapple with it as best we can but it has not been easy. Living in the “Information Age” gives us a deluge of data to help us and yet no certainty that the data is accurate or truth that can guide our decisions. Perhaps it is harder for us because we no longer believe or accept the principle of absolute truth, so doubts assail us on every point. Maybe it is more difficult because of our own tendency to avoid or deny hard realities.
Mankind has a long history of struggling with the truth since we yielded to temptation at the very beginning and considered a lie to possibly be true. The creature who tempted us then passed his image onto us and ever since then our quest for knowledge and discernible truth has been at odds. It so marks our DNA as mortals that even as believers in Christ it is hard to totally defeat it.
The battle can rage because the truth (when accurately discerned) is often not pretty or easy and we would much prefer the denial or the fantasy we or someone else creates for us. Our moral fiber stretches this way and that so that we can grow weary of the struggle and seek to ignore it and accept what is presented without even considering its veracity. Added to that is discovering the someone we believe has not been truthful.
This quote by Aldous Huxley should give us pause. Repeatedly mankind has tried that without good results. Is it because we lost a more perfect world when Eden was marred by mankind’s choice that we keep trying to get back some of what we lost? Do we demonstrate that when we flock to fantasy movies? Is it why most of us (no matter what our age) love visiting Disney World that allows us a few hours or days in a fun-filled place and then feel the letdown of returning to the life we really are living when we return home? Do our dreams of unlimited success have its origins in that as well? Is the struggle more significant because we find so few real-life heroes to look up to?
How much do we value truth as a foundation for decision-making and living?
“Genuine moral and mental health consists not only in telling the truth to others but also in telling the truth to oneself about one’s true interests and motives.”David C. Downing from Into the Wardrobe
And there it is – the pithy reality we are reluctant to admit – do we tell the truth to ourselves with an uncompromising look at our motives and interests as we interact with others, decisions, and every moment of our daily life?
How good it would be if we could learn this truth spoken by Theodore Roosevelt early in our lives and then have it become a habit. Instead, we are more prone to avoid or deny an unpleasant truth with excuses and long explanations about why we made that choice.
What characters in the stories we read are we most attracted to? The ones who are better than we are or the ones that remind us of ourselves? (Be careful to consider that answer.)
In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the first of the Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis, which characters are you cheering for, and which ones are less likable? Many of you would choose Lucy as a favorite and Edmund as less so. Lucy seems to get it right and lives life more honestly and openly than Edmund from the very outset. Lewis’s skill as a writer gives us much to chew on within his characters.
“Throughout the chronicles, characters cannot experience genuine moral growth until they learn to hear the still, small voice of truth within them, ignoring the inner clamor of evasions and rationalizations.”David C. Downing from Into the Wardrobe
If we keep tuning out that still, small voice we risk losing the ability to hear it as it grows quieter and quieter. And perhaps that is what has brought us to the messes we face in life on every side now. We may point to others and see this deficit while failing to recognize our own and how our own choices have given power to perpetuating false narratives and advancing darkness and evil. And now we look at the mess and chaos and feel it is overwhelming to consider we can affect any light into it all.
George Washington was not a perfect man, but his words remind us that to gain truth will always require us to take the pains to bring it to light. Since he spoke such words, our task has become more challenging because there are so many layers of shadow and denial, lies and delusions. Our own resolve to make honest choices based on truth has been weakened by not always owning the truth about ourselves and excusing our diminishing values. Our laziness results in us gobbling up data from more sources than ever existed even 10 years ago while not being determined to mine out the truth from the fabrications trying to hide it.
“Every good choice strengthens one’s inner resolve to make another good choice next time, while every bad choice leaves one inclined to further bad choices down the road.”David C. Downing from Into the Wardrobe
Our character is not shaped in a moment but painstakingly sculpted moment by moment through one choice at a time.
What choice will we make today? Will we be guided by the still small voice within or our own view or version of what is right?
Our answer is significant. We are living in unprecedented times and accountability for our choices will not be avoided indefinitely.