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Evangelizing Truth Through Relationship
There is a relationship which is shared between our perspectives on truth, relationships with others, and opportunities to strengthen both. We live in a time when there is a lot of evangelizing going on with all manner of agenda, and an atmosphere in which recognizing and focusing on truth can sometimes be de-emphasized. In this environment we must ask ourselves who is evangelizing truth if not us, and how are we using our most powerful tool, our relationships, in the pursuit of honoring and strengthening truth?
Truth Decay is pervasive in our world
The phrase "Truth Decay" was coined by Michael Rich, president emeritus at The RAND Corporation, as a way of describing the erosion of truth in society in general and politics in particular. We see it prominently in the political and social discourse which touches most areas of our existence, but it is present in virtually every area of life. Denial of truth in favor of a social agenda, election contention, and a plethora of conspiracy theories, some so bizarre they cannot be believed but too often are, are constantly before us. How did this happen? The answer is simple: in today's discourse, discovering the truth of a matter is a distant second to winning the competition. Much of public dialogue has disintegrated to this base level: winning. Furthering an agenda, whatever it may be, has become the highest form of practice. Winning has become everything, relegating truth to a quaint, uninteresting corner of the room.
The effects of Truth Decay are upon us
Possibly the greatest form of anarchy is when what is true and what is not true is an open question for each person to decide. In this case, truth is an individual matter and there is no requirement that it be harmonized with fact. Each person is free to create their own alternative reality which is no reality at all but merely a conglomeration of their personal biases, wishes, dreams, and sometimes their delusions. It is no surprise then that with each individual left free to decide their own personal truth, we can only be a divided society. With winning as the ultimate goal there is no motivation for seeking real truth, which is a unifying force, and thus division is our state. If we choose not to seek truth, that which is simply because it is, then we surely will not find it.
Evangelizing truth through our relationships
Few of us have a large platform to speak from. We do not host popular podcasts or YouTube channels, we are not on a stage or large screen, and no one pays to hear our opinion. That does not mean we do not have a voice. In Tables and Platforms, Marios Ellinas discusses the role relationship plays in developing influence, its different levels, and how they interact to empower each other. Relationships - we all have them, and they are our personal tables and platforms. It is through our relationships that we have opportunity to influence dialogue, discourse, decisions, and lives. We all have table (intimate) relationships, and some do have a platform (broader reach). Both have a role to play in the elevation of truth.
Relationships are open doorways
Recently, I struck up a friendship with a new barber. He is a young guy, comes from a different part of the world, has a neat shop, and is a very good barber. He rides his Harley on long solo road trips to places I would never go, his shop is styled as a man cave garage complete with tool chests for workstations and more pictures of Marilyn Monroe and skull art than I knew existed, and he has quite the set of tats on him. About the only thing we have in common is that he too is a reader. Invariably, we get into our latest book reads and trade suggestions. He is friendly, approachable, articulate, and despite the exterior there is a gentle interior about him. I am certain we live in different worlds outside of his shop yet there is a growing connection, and that connection afforded opportunity to speak a bit of truth into his life in a particular area. Doing so required being transparent and vulnerable, it required taking a risk, and it required thoughtfulness.
There are other forces at work in moments like these, but those four are good places to start. Of late, I've had a few of these moments, not something that has been a norm in my life. More and more now I am attuned to the doorways that are ajar in the midst of conversations and sometimes, just sometimes, I test how well the hinges are oiled. In this case, they were well oiled indeed. He made a comment, and my response was slow in coming as I considered and decided. He could see my wheels turning and waited the few seconds for me to speak. I asked if he would be willing to listen to a different perspective. He said he would.
I spoke slowly with thoughtful intent, explaining my understanding of truth on the matter and touching on the issue of today's culture and its assault against truth. I spoke respectfully and reflectively from a position of hiddenness and humility. There was no insistence, no volume, no accusation, no assault. There was only what was in my heart, spoken plainly in a way that honored him even as I put forth the case for my different opinion. I spoke about the importance of thoughtful approaches, of doing our own thinking based on our own values, of discerning and then deciding, and turning to knowledge, understanding, and wisdom as our counselors instead of pop culture, which shifts faster than the wind. I spoke of the importance of giving grace to others whom we disagree with, and I spoke of the power of truth which remains true even when denied. It was a moment; one I had not expected but could feel as if it were breathing on me.
The way we speak in these moments matters
After we parted and I was on my way home, I reflected on the moment, its power, and the thankful response it elicited. I realized that there is something deeply important about vulnerability, thoughtfulness, humility, and grace - they multiply their effect in union with each other, not in a way that seeks to win the discussion but in the transparent sharing of truth in a way that says, "I care enough about our relationship and you to tell you this." I realized, also, that even though my perspective differs from his, we left the conversation with a closer bond. It was palpable.
These kinds of dialogues create an atmosphere where truth is illuminated, allowed to emerge, elevate, and unify. It may be your barber, your best friend, your boss or co-worker. Whatever the context, truth is always there waiting for someone to speak for it. Relationships of all kinds are doorways. Sometimes, all they need is a nudge.
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