Truth: Part 2 – Relative Truth

Let’s understand this from the start. There are two kinds of truth, relative and absolute.

Relative truth is something that is true for me but may not be for someone else or something that is true at this instant but might not be tomorrow.. You might ask “How can this be? Something is either true or it is not. It can’t be both true and false!” To this I respond, “au contraire mon ami!” (Translated that means “on the contrary my friend” or “not true dude!”) For example, when I was about fourteen years old, I wanted to have an income of my own. I had already tried working in a poodle kennel – a topic for another day – and found that to be really nasty. So, I made a list of things I could do that would be more to my liking. Things like pick fruit, sell vegetable seeds, toss bails of hay on farmers’ wagons, and baby sit. None of these suited me either for one reason or another, and yes I tried them all. Then, I came up with a brainstorm. I knew how much I hated mowing the lawn. I even developed an allergic reaction to grass so that I wouldn’t have to do it at home. Obviously, most other people must feel the same way so if I could overcome my own dislike of mowing I could probably make a fortune mowing their lawns. So, long story short, I found some customers and began earning my fortune.

One of my customers was a single woman, probably mid thirties in age. After I finished mowing her lawn one time, we had a conversation that changed my life. In the course of our discussion she found out that I was very involved in the church my family attended and that I wanted Christianity to be a significant part of my life. She said she could tell that I was a very nice young man and that I set the course of my life on a wonderful path. Then she asked me a question that I wasn’t sure how to answer. She asked, “What do you think sin is?” I remember testing different answers in my mind, trying to find one that would satisfy her. Finally, I settled on this “Sin is choosing not to follow what one believes to be the will of God. I believe what is sin for one person may not be sin for another” This is the first time I ever seriously thought about one of the major questions in of this life. You know, the question of right and wrong or true and false. Today, I might have phrased my answer differently. I might have responded “Sin is choosing not to see or accept the truth revealed in God. I believe that what is truth to one person may not be truth to another.” For example, I have red-green color blindness. This means I see the world differently than most other people. So, when someone looks at a rose bush and says “what beautiful red roses!”, I might say (in my head of course) “Not so my friend, those are beautiful green roses!” Because we legitimately perceive the world differently, we have a different truth. That is relative truth. Of course, this gives rise to a new question. Are there truths that everyone sees the same? We’ll address this in the next post!

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Truth – Part 1

 

My father was born in 1922 and raised in Oklahoma and Arkansas during the Great Depression. As was the case for many families during that time, life was austere and pennies had to stretch a long way. There weren’t many technological diversions for children in those days. They did have a few books and living in the country they had full access to the Outdoors. Even so, there was little opportunity for leisure because all hands were needed to scrabble together a way to survive. Dad, his five siblings, and their parents lived in a two bedroom home with no indoor plumbing, no electricity, a small pot-bellied stove in the middle of the living room for heat, and at the end of the path a hundred feet or so from the house, an outhouse.

Under these circumstances, nothing my father or my aunts and uncles ever did was really done in secret. And, if they ever tried to hide something nefarious from my grandparents there was a significant price to pay. Grandpa kept a razor strop hanging by the back door from a nail in the wall. I saw it once when I was young. It was similar to a leather belt two or three inches wide and maybe a yard long. Its main purpose was to keep a sharp edge on grandpa’s straight razor but it also served a secondary function as the consequence for any transgression, by children, of the “rules to live by” in their home. It was the “enforcer”! Dad learned early on that it was imperative in their home for everyone to tell the truth … always. This became the central theme of my dad’s life and, as such, was passed on to each of his children.

One of my early memories of this concept was formed around our weekly excursion to the local grocery store. Any time we got something to drink other than water or milk was special. On this day, mom bought two large cans of Hi-C fruit juice (pretty much just flavored sugar water) and we couldn’t wait to get a swig. Mom told us we could have some later but it had to last for several weeks so it would be used sparingly. After we got home and the groceries were put away, we all went about our business. In my case, that business involved finding a way to sneak a sample of the Hi-C. I waited until everyone was occupied away from the kitchen and then I sneaked back in, opened the cupboard door (thankfully it didn’t squeak!), and lifted out a can of Hi-C! I took a can-opener from the utensil drawer. You know, one of those with the pointy end that you latch onto the edge of a can and pry up to punch a triangular hole in the top of the can. Then, I lifted the can to my lips and took a mighty gulp. What glorious satisfaction! Placing the can back in the cupboard, and somehow thinking I wouldn’t get caught, I left the kitchen.

A few days later, dad called a family meeting. This didn’t happen often so we knew something important must be in the air. As soon as my two sisters, my brother, and I were all standing in a row, dad pulled out the opened can of juice which by now was ruined from sitting open in the heat  of the cupboard for days. He told us that the can of juice had to be thrown out and he wanted to know who was responsible. We all stood silent. My brother and sisters because they knew nothing and I because I knew the belt or a switch would await my admission of guilt. So, dad  approached each of us individually and asked us “Did you open this can of juice?” Of course we all answered in the negative. Then dad pulled out the heavy artillery. He said, ” One of you is lying. I don’t know which one , so all of you will get the same punishment”, and he began removing his belt. We all started bawling, my siblings because of their misfortune at the unfairness of life and me because I knew there was no way out. I felt a gigantic load of guilt and I knew if I didn’t confess I would be branded forever, not by them but by my own conscience. I admitted my guilt in front of all the witnesses and took my punishment. Funny thing, I don’t remember the sting of the belt at all. I guess it was washed away in the relief of a clean conscience.