It is easy to judge others. Alternatively, it is easy to be a relativist, and not put any demand on anyone, expecting that others will never judge you. Both ways of thinking are reinforced by an education system that privileges talking over learning, knowing over wisdom. The thing is, once you step over the threshold of relativism, you enter into a lonely and selfish world.
Think of it this way: if everything is equally valid, then nothing is meaningful, nothing is special. Worst of all, nothing is true. This is a tragedy, because it takes away that thing which is at once the most challenging part of our lives and the most profoundly human – belief.
Truth is not normative. Truth should not prescribe, because think of the arrogance of that position – it implies that somehow we can know the world or another person. I don’t think we can know others – we can only continually seek to understand them better and welcome them further into our hearts. So, for me, truth is the opposite of normative. Rather, it is something that is born of actions, habits and belief. If we believe profoundly in a possible truth, then our lives become journeys of openness, of seeking out wisdom.
Where does wisdom come from? I think it comes from the loving application of reason to our experiences and the experiences of others. It is easy to hear others when they complain, when they tell us of their sadness or their anxiety and doubt. When we hear these things, we can treat them as objects and classify them away. We can dismiss the worries or fears of others as unimportant, or trumped up, or simply not worthy of consideration. But what an impoverishment of our lives this would be.
Rather, imagine the richness of opening your heart to a suffering friend, life companion or acquaintance. Imagine the floodgate of feeling you can open in another person when you say “I know you have made a mistake. I know that you know it too. But let’s work through this together! Take my hand. I believe in you.” These are healing words. Surprisingly though, they are not about you healing another person. Rather, they are words of mutual growth and mutual emancipation.
For, when you seek to understand another, when you open your heart to them and offer to help shoulder their burden, you become more human. You may lose some productive time, you may miss a favourite tv program or outing, but you will have gained understanding and you will have deepened the waters of your heart and soul. In fact, you will have done one of the greatest things a person can do: you will have shown someone else that they should believe in themselves and other people.
This is a beautiful realisation to have. It’s life changing. In fact, this is one quiet way in which we can change the world, one person at a time, one day at a time.