“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally. A higher paradox confounds emotion as well as reason and there are long periods in the lives of all of us, and of the saints, when the truth as revealed by faith is hideous, emotionally disturbing, downright repulsive.” ~ Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being …
“What is truth?” Pilate asked Jesus of Nazareth this centuries ago, and it has been asked countless times since then. Of course, often times, there is no answer, for many truths are subjective truths and are impossible to define or to view objectively. This makes sense, after all, as we all see things in relation to our experiences and from our own unique perspectives. But Flannery is not talking about subjective truths here, but rather objective ones.
It is true, for instance, that an average of 21,000 people each day die of hunger and malnutrition, most of them children–that is more than 7.6 million each year. And it is true that more than 58 million babies have been aborted since 1973 in the US, and 40 to 50 million are aborted each year worldwide. Of course there are subjective truths behind these objective truths, such as, “I feel sad when I hear about this, however, this is occurring in places where I have no influence, so there is nothing I can do about it,” or “…it is a choice by the mother as it is her own body and not mine.” While both of these may be true, they are attempts for us to reason truth–to subject it to our desired perspectives.
Our attempts to rationalize truths in our lives, however, does not fundamentally change them–only our lack of perception of them. My inability to influence does not change the fact that 21,000 people are dying each day of hunger and malnutrition, even though the world produces enough food to feed everyone. And just because I am not choosing to abort any children myself, does not change the fact that millions of babies are dying each year. You see, our explanations of our own subjective truths are simply a way to distance ourselves from the reality–to rationalize such things so that we can handle them and cope with what might otherwise completely overwhelm us.
Of course, some truths are difficult to handle and we should not dwell on them constantly. Doing so is difficult for the health of our mind, body, and souls, and goes on to directly affect those around us negatively as well. However, we should never try to avoid the truths that lie before us, or deceive ourselves by decorating them with niceties. We must always remain completely aware of the truths in our lives so that our necessary contributions to humanity might be shared. If someone close to us is suffering, do not try to explain it away or avoid it–know it, feel it, share it, and do what you can to help heal that hurt, no matter how small those efforts may seem.
Remember to face the truths around you today, no matter how unpleasant they may be.
Questions to consider:
How many people do you know who tend to explain away truths in such a way as to take all responsibility off their own shoulders?
Why is it important that we face even those truths that we have a hard time facing?
What are some of the potential benefits of facing truths boldly and honestly?
For further thought:
“At the core of everything I write is the feeling that the denial of the truth imprisons us even further in ourselves. Of course, there’s no one “truth.” The great things, the insights that happen to you, come to you in some internal way.” ~ Paula Fox, excerpt from interview with Sybil Steinberg in Publishers Weekly