The older I get, the more I realize how little I know. I’m wary of people too confident about being right, certain of their “one and only” path to addressing complicated issues. I’m dismayed about political discourse and the apparent attachment so many citizens have to electing leaders who are unwilling or unable to speak truthfully about the slippery nature of “truth.”
Sometimes I’m reminded of what I believed several years ago, well into my adulthood, and I cringe. How could I have believed such a thing? (All too easily, I’m afraid.) Fortunately, my unshakeable resolve to learn from experiences has broadened my perspective.
I did not always welcome the eye-opening circumstances through which I was forced to confront “truths” I took for granted. It’s uncomfortable to be exposed, to fall flat into a falsehood, to get up again and to say “I was wrong.” This admission may be especially difficult for those born in privilege, as I was. I’m grateful for the mind-changing opportunities I’ve had. To paraphrase one of the most popular hymns ever written: I was blind, but now I see.When I witness uninformed entitlement among the privileged, I waver in my commitment to respectful communication. It’s difficult for me to feel compassion toward very fortunate people who show little empathy and refuse to acknowledge their many advantages. I want them to understand complexities, to see how the truth is not simple, nor is it always clear!
After over five decades of living, I’ve learned the value of “maybe.” I’ve come to appreciate a middle, provisional stance on people, politics and life. It’s helpful to listen, learn, wait and see before coming to judgment. One of the biggest obstacles to cooperation, collaboration and getting things done is when well-meaning people insist they have made up their minds and refuse further discussion. They come to the table with firmly entrenched ideas, when they may have only half the story.
It’s easy to travel familiar ground with others who look, think and assume as you do. It’s more difficult to muck around the path with “strangers” who have had very different experiences. You may trip over the roots of your ignorance or discover that your version of the truth is all wet!