From time to time, I hear someone saying, “My truth may not be the same as your truth.” Because postmodern thinking has infiltrated this generation and our Western society with its relativism, many make this statement without realizing what they say. They do not realize the problems arising from this statement. Some do, but use it as an escape hatch for shutting down an argument in which they do not wish to engage. Those shutting down an argument cannot defend their own position. Others also look at this statement as conclusive, the end of all argument, and an inescapable “truth” without a legitimate rebuttal. Are these conclusions really that air tight or do they simply teeter on the cliff of irrationality, reducing argument and communication to meaningless? Let us examine the logic and philosophy behind this statement and dig to the root of it.
The book Nothing But the Gospel addresses this argument, stating,
Many today reduce truth to “my truth may not be the same as your truth.” Such an assessment of truth cancels it out by reducing it to millions of individual opinions. In doing so, truth itself depends on humanity and not on God, and reduces it to non-existence. Such so-called truth relies on the limitations of finite beings living in a temporal existence and ignores the unknown” (p. 76).
That is, one making this claim about truth asserts a self-defeating argument and redefines the meaning of truth. Opinion substitutes for truth and makes truth dependent on the limitations of an individual, group, community, or society. By redefining the word, the user becomes enclosed in his or her own limited existence beyond which another “truth” claims to exist. That is, all “truths” are mutually exclusive and only valid within a specific circle.
Moving outside one’s circle of truth into another person’s circle is non-negotiable depending on the flexibility of one’s “truth” principles. It also expresses a statement of intolerance and standard. That is, if your truth is different from mine, then anything beyond my cocoon of truth has little relevance. Not only does it have little relevance, but if I cling heartily to my truth, your truth can be very offensive to me. Such offense lends to alienation and conflict while cutting off discourse and association. The more firm the stance on one’s truth, the greater the intolerance of another person or group’s truth. Of course, this assertion remains unstated until “truths” clash. Then the banners raise and protests begin.
This statement about truth also raises what one attempts to avoid: absoluteness and a sense of right or wrong. By making the statement about truth as possessive or belonging to one person or group as opposed to another, a sense of absoluteness arises. One who makes the claim will not state outright that another is wrong, but when one makes such a claim, that person excludes the claims of any other “truth.” An attitude of intolerance confirms this absoluteness, which eventually surfaces when one holding the claim is pressed in a corner.
Furthermore, truth cannot stand alone. It must be practiced. Otherwise, it is ethereal and has no substance or connection to the real world. Practice makes truth reality. Practice expresses and distinguishes between right and wrong right and wrong. That is, a person behaves in a manner one believes to be a right course as opposed to a wrong course. People make judgments and engage in actions based on personal standards. We often hear the phrase when asked why a person acted in the way one did, “It was simply the right thing to do.” Trust depends on telling the truth or exhibiting certain attitudes or behaviors. People realize that specific attitudes and behaviors are common within groups, communities, and societies.
A person making a claim about “my truth” soon discovers isolation. Others outside of the realm of another person’s truth then begin to view the person clinging to a “my truth” as an oddball. Consequently, the truth of truth is its relevance beyond one person, and if beyond one person, to how many more will truth apply before it reaches its limitation? If truth has limitation, it then exhibits the same claim as truth limited to one. The group or community making the claim, much like the individual, soon discovers isolation, and not only isolation but also intolerance of other groups, communities, and societies. Have we not seen the results of this throughout history?
Therefore, is truth or a claim of truth a problem or the individual making the claim about truth the problem? Some may say neither is a problem. Why then does intolerance or conflict arise with the statement of “My truth may not be the same as your truth?” Does truth contribute to intolerance or conflict? The Bible claims that the suppression of truth gives rise to everyone claiming their own truth,
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).
The suppression of truth arises from what the Apostle Paul asserts as “unrighteousness,” that is, the refusal to recognize and follow God as the source of truth. He goes on to write,
…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (1:21-25).
In the absence of divine truth and its practice, individuals adopt their own “truth” and fail to recognize that it must be practiced. Therefore, the problem resides with individuals. They end up practicing a lie while laying claim to “My truth may not be the same as your truth.” When asked about that person’s truth, the next claim comes forth, “That (practice) may be OK for you but not for me.” In making this statement, one integrates practice with one’s statement of truth and the admission that it must be practiced. By doing so, one establishes a standard for one’s view of truth and its practice. That standard not only applies to that individual but also to the group or community with which the individual is involved until the scope of this standard becomes wider to a society and beyond.
Paul explains the logical conclusion of a person or society establishing its own “truth” – setting up a divinity or idol for the society after first rejecting God. Under the umbrella of another divinity, individuals begin to practice dishonor, intolerance for others, deceit, and any number of other practices Paul mentions. Conflicts and destructive behaviors arise as each society clings to its own set of “truths” and looks upon other societies as oddballs. Power resides in those (the dictator) who hold sway with their “truth.” Has history not shown these consequences, especially when people depart from the living God and fail to give Him the worship due Him? Worshiping the God of Jesus Christ brings all claims of truth and their conflicts to an end. Since He created all that exist, He alone determines truth for that existence. Jesus said,
I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
He alone establishes the truth for all to follow and reconciles all to it and God through Himself.