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What Is Truth?

Bob Dare

October 2016

I am no scholar by any measure but I enjoy learning. The college course that I learned the most from was Philosophy. The professor who taught it made "truth" the nucleus of the course. The first question he asked was, "Where do you get your truth?" Needless to say, any work that you were required to produce for him had to clearly show that you did not restrict your efforts in research, and that you objectively presented both sides of the topic. Often, my preconceived opinion was altered, or completely changed as I gave fair consideration to an argument. Philosophy changed my process of arriving at the "truth" and although I am human, and on occasions jump to a conclusion, I am able to take a second look and alter my view as facts and information are revealed.

Of course the opposite of truth is untruth of which there are many examples. I have found labeling to be one. Have you ever found yourself succumbing to "labeling"? We live in a world where labeling seems to be a consistent method of neatly categorizing anything including human beings. I have no idea where the concept originated. I understand the need to scientifically group species and things but I am always bothered when we attempt to define people by a label because it seems to me that labeling people is often premature and untruthful.

Consider as an example, generational labeling. I am a Baby Boomer. The label of Baby Boomer included drug user, disrespectful of law and authority, and rejecter of tradition and values, just to name a few. My son and daughter are Generation Xers. The labelers said, amongst many things, that they were antisocial, adrift, loners and anti all things organized. Each generation has been titled with a label and in many cases the label contains more negative inference than positive.

Labels, by their very design, divide. I can live with plants and foliage, mammals, reptiles, etc lumped under a category. Humans on the other hand do not need such "scientific" assessing.

Look around today and see the divisiveness that plagues us. You must be liberal or conservative; left or right; for or against whatever may be the issue of the day, and on and on and on. Many of us allow ourselves to fall prey to the "talk of the town". We ignore objectivity and critical thinking, and accept the "truth" from the "experts" and pundits who are very quick to tell us how to think. Civil debate is almost extinct; we have replaced it with arguing and shouting matches laced with profane or derogatory adjectives, non-factual claims and exaggerations that accomplish nothing but to extend the chasm between the sides. We deny ourselves the time to hear the other side because the other side does not fit our preconceived beliefs. We lump those who "are not like us" into overarching categories that normally are defined by the things we oppose and object when often, we have not taken the time to even consider a differing point of view or additional facts that may mitigate our biases.

That takes me back to my example of generational labeling. My Grandson is a Millennial (or, if you like, Generation Y). His label defines him as being all about "me", entitlement driven, lacking social skills, and so on. I recently had the opportunity to move him to college. As we approached the entry gate the road was full of young people, wearing a very friendly smile, and a colorful t-shirt with "welcome to….." embossed on it. At every checkpoint along the way one of these cordial people provided direction and information until you arrived at the assigned dorm, at which time a horde of these same people descended on your automobile, asked, "What's your room number?" and, in seconds, emptied the car of its contents and delivered all of it to the room. A committee consistently passed by each dorm room offering assistance and answering questions. The atmosphere was alive with interaction, genuine concern and interest. I engaged a number of these, "me", "antisocial", young people, and through discussion found that they were all freshman students who had volunteered to assist, arrived a week early for training, were focused on the future, had great goals and expectations, were optimistic and determined to grow and ultimately contribute to our society. Not typical, you may say. Maybe so, but I am convinced that this was not the only college in this country that was enrolling young people of the ilk of my Grandson and his new classmates.

Seems to me that we need to label less, and instead, talk more, ask more, read more, and think more for ourselves if we are to ever know the "truth" about anything. Why allow a shallow, partial or biased opinion, regardless of how well it is pleasantly packaged or dynamically delivered, pull us to one side or another? We were each born with an incredible gift to think, to choose and to evaluate independent of others. Objectivity is paramount to finding the "truth".

Do yourself a favor, the next time you are being told the "truth" take some time to evaluate it, dig a little deeper into the facts, ask a few questions then decide if that "truth" is your "truth".

True Growth Takeaway: Be careful who you allow to define your truths.

True Growth Journal Question: What can I do to ensure that I am being objective when searching for truth?

About the author: Bob Dare served 28 years in the United States Army. He held every noncommissioned officer leadership position culminating with his last three assignments as Command Sergeant Major for the 25th Infantry Division, United States Army Pacific Command and United States Army Forces Command. Bob is also an executive coach and facilitator for LWM III Consulting.

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