Theology

Your truth, my truth, and The Truth

In my early twenties, I was convinced that God had called me to be single. But mere months after making that great statement, I started dating the man I would eventually marry. 

God hadn’t called me to singleness after all. I just convinced myself that he did because I believed these fundamental truths about myself, after the demolition of a five-year abusive relationship:

I was unworthy of marriage to a godly Christian man.

No one could ever want me. 

I’ve never been happier to be wrong. It turns out that “my truth” was really anything but. Using my feelings and emotions to shape my view of myself was a recipe for loneliness and self-loathing. And because I have anxiety and depression, I know just how unreliable feelings can be. 

“My truth” will always tell me that I am worthless and unlovable. Grounded, biblical knowledge that we are made in the Imago Dei is the prevailing truth that guides me through those low moments. 

So why do we say “Live your truth” or “Find your truth,” like it’s something admirable? When did “truth” become something in the eye of the beholder?

When Different Truths Coexist

I suspect that when most people say something to the effect of, “This is my truth,” what they really mean is, “This is my perspective or experience.” In that context, the expression is fine (albeit somewhat misleading). 

Subjective “truths” are really just a matter of opinion (ie: broccoli is gross, cats are better than dogs). In this era of Covid-19, treating the truth as something subjective can be irresponsible and dangerous. It is not “your truth” that the virus is no different than a cold, when it’s caused the deaths of several thousand otherwise healthy people. The rise of “alternative facts” has deadly consequences. 

By What Standard?

I’ve read atheist bloggers who say they find it disturbing that Christians need a god to tell them what is right and what is wrong; that there’s something internally wrong with them for not being able to figure it out using common sense. Well, I don’t trust my internal moral compass, or “my truth,” because I am too aware of my inconsistencies as a flawed, emotional human. 

A solid foundation for morality is necessary for guiding one’s decisions in a consistent manner, regardless of what our feelings want. My feelings will always err on the side of pettiness, because I know that is the natural inclination of my heart. Relying on “my truth,” then, will always push me to choose whatever benefits me, regardless of whether it’s consistent with my professed beliefs. 

“My truth” is not actually freedom, but slavery to desire. 

Living In A Post-Truth World

Here’s a subjective truth: the intense focus on self, on individualism and autonomy, is actually quite modern. Brett McCracken writes

These ideas were unfathomable in former eras, when “go it alone” in life was seriously dangerous…Each person’s identity is naturally understood in terms of how it relates to the whole…From cradle to grave, we are formed by others. Contrary to what a ‘look within’ world would suggest, the world outside our heads defines our existence in ways we are foolish to ignore. Rather than seeing this as oppressive, or simply pretending (foolishly) this isn’t the case, we should accept this situation as a gift: truth comes, in large part, from outside ourselves.

Simply put, truth is not something we get to choose. Truth is something that exists outside the confines of our personal experiences, feelings, and belief systems. And thank God for that. 

Photo by Ali Kazal on Unsplash

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