Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Validation and the Truth

I have a young friend who has just turned 19.  The boy isn't stupid, and I know it. He may lack polish and sophistication, but he's got enough intelligence to learn. I just couldn't understand why it was, then, that I could present him with a million different facts and logical arguments that showed him how his beliefs were in error, but it didn't get through. His response to this effort was about as sophisticated as a child putting his hands over his ears and saying, "I can't hear you!".

I found the situation maddening, and brought it up to my husband.  It seemed to me like the boy just wasn't using his brains or his ability to reason at all, as if he were incapable of moving past his emotions. I worried that he would be unable to function in the world.  My husband corrected my error, pointing out that the reason the boy and I were debating in the first place is because he had learned something new and was sharing it with everyone over Facebook.  He said that the reason I wasn't able to get through to this boy is because he isn't looking for the truth. He's looking for validation. He learns only enough to validate what he wants to be true and discards anything else that he encounters that might challenge that belief.

This nugget of wisdom from my husband made me sit back and think.  It explains virtually every encounter I've ever had where the truth was on my side but the other person kept dismissing it.  They aren't looking for the truth, may not even want the truth. What they want is validation for what they already believe. They aren't willing to do the digging that finding the truth requires. They aren't willing to do the self-examination and make the changes the truth requires.  They want people to tell them that how they are living their life right now is fine and they don't need to change, and as soon as they find something that reaffirms their belief that how they are living is good they shut down and stop learning. They discard anything at all that contradicts their belief because they are more comfortable believing the lie than they are accepting the truth and changing.

It explains the reason that many Protestants are unwilling to look at the Catholic Church honestly and openly. They aren't searching for the Truth, either. They simply want validation of what they already believe, and so they collect little phrases from Scripture that shield them from having to look at the context and dive deeper into the meaning.  They literally cannot hear any arguments, no matter how well-reasoned and valid the logic, because they discard them as irrelevant since they don't validate their own beliefs.

It is the reason that getting through to atheists can be so difficult.  They don't want the truth, either, as much as they may claim to uphold and support science. They only uphold and support the parts of science that validate their own beliefs. They do not question past that, and they discard any effort to present them with evidence that might challenge their current thoughts on the matter.  They will learn only exactly as much is required to support their own beliefs, no matter how flawed and illogical the beliefs may be.

Some who read this may find it highly ironic that I, a firm believer in God, should be writing this. Many might assume I believe the way I believe because that's how I was raised and if I'd been raised an atheist, I'd be an atheist.  They couldn't be more wrong.  I believe as I do because I have found sufficient evidence of the existence of God to be able to say without doubt that He exists. He is as real as my son, my husband, the boy I spoke of earlier, and any reader of my writings might be. That He cannot be seen by me does not disprove His existence anymore than it disproves the existence of air. I know that both exist because of the way my body responds to their presence, and the way my body responds to their absence. I found Him because I was seeking the truth - not my own version of the truth, not validation, but actual truth. There's a tremendous difference between the two.

Validation is comfortable and easy. It demands nothing of us, requires no change, and is incredibly accommodating.  It is dangerous for that very reason. The Truth never makes us comfortable. It always requires us to change and adapt. It doesn't accommodate us, it requires us to accommodate it.  This is because Truth does not change, does not bend, does not alter.  It is what it is, whether we accept or deny it.

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