I read an interesting essay today. It's ostensibly about Prince Harry, but that is not what was interesting. (In fact, it's difficult for me to find any enthusiasm whatsoever for the Harry/Meghan soap opera. I avoid it like the plague.)

The author talks about the various meanings we attribute to the word "truth." In the 21st century, we still have the concept of "truth" corresponding to an empirical reality. But more and more, we also have the concept of "my truth" or "your truth," which appears to correspond to something one happens to feel at a particular moment.

There's at least three issues here consequent to using the same word to refer to two completely different things. The first is that we begin to attribute to "my truth" some authority--the type of authority that "truth" has over us.

The second issue is that how we are feeling at a particular moment in time may not be the result of any type of deep reflection. For example, as someone who watches their weight, I have discovered that sometimes when I feel "hungry," actually I am "thirsty." And sometimes when I feel "irritated" I'm actually "hungry." There's a sense in which one needs to interrogate one's feelings to get to a deeper understanding of the significance of one's feelings. The author, Giles Fraser, puts it this way:

"Freud’s work simply demonstrates that phrases such as “my truth” are not always helpful, either objectively and subjectively. It presumes too quickly that there is little more to inner truth than simply what you feel. But as the psychoanalytic experience so often demonstrates, “my truth” also requires a kind of discipled critical vigilance — the sort of push-back provided by a skilled analyst."

Then, of course, there is always the issue that one's feelings can change. Sometimes they can change in a very short period of time. There's a mismatch between our sense of a truth being "eternal" and a truth being "ephmeral."

I guess where I am going with these thoughts it that there is a LOT of mischief created by our modern willingness to use the same word "truth" to apply to two things that are not at all like each other. I think, for example, about whether a person's feeling that they are a woman entitles them to legal recognition of that feeling as some type of truth around which privileges and rights under law coalesce. What authority does a feeling hold in matters of such policy? In a clash of feeling-truths, whose truth is entitled to claim authority? And who gets to decide that question? And if a feeling-truth changes, as they often do, does that invalidate policy made previously before the change, or necessitate a policy reversal?

As a believer, I reject the use of the word "truth" in connection with feelings. "Sincere belief at the present moment" is what "my truth" actually means. Yes, those sincere beliefs matter, and we know God views us in light of our circumstances, which surely includes our sincere beliefs. But a radical reliance on sincere beliefs leaves us unmoored from "truth." Indeed, I would argue that the four horsemen that God sends to wicked cultures represent a last-ditch attempt to get us to turn from "my truth" back to "truth." War, famine, pestilence, and death focus the mind wonderfully on "truth."

This is why, I believe, that God's first requirement of us is obedience. What we are being asked to be obedient to is truth. The habit of obedience to truth anchors us in a salutary way, and forces us to transcend "my truth." We have lost this habit in our society, and as a result our laws and our policies have become corrupt and degraded.

While I cannot turn my society around, I do intend to eschew the locution "my truth." One small thing I can do is refer to my feelings and my sincere beliefs, but try not to impose those on myself or on others as a form of "truth."