We can choose the sources of where we look for truth. We can choose how we synthesize truth and apply it as wisdom in everyday circumstances. But we don’t get to choose whether or not something is true. We don’t invent truth. We don’t determine it. We search it out and accept it with gratitude, even when it’s at odds with our feelings or preferences.
In her lifetime-achievement-award acceptance speech at the 2018 Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey said, “What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”
Your truth. Those two words are so entrenched in our lexicon today that we hardly recognize them for the incoherent nightmare that they are. Among other things, the philosophy of “your truth” destroys families when a dad suddenly decides “his truth” is calling him to a new lover, a new family, or maybe even a new gender. It’s a philosophy that can destroy entire societies, because invariably one person’s truth will go to battle with another person’s truth, and devoid of reason, only power decides the victor.
Our post-truth age pitches the individual self as the primary source of truth: “follow your heart,” “live your truth,” and so forth. Authenticity and expressive individualism are ultimate values. Authorities of every kind outside the self are now being questioned, their value seen only insofar as they serve and validate us. Institutions now exist to merely affirm us, not to form us.
And yet we follow our heart—which is “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9)—at our peril, becoming subject to the whims and contradictions of our fickle emotions. It sounds freeing to just “live your truth,” without the restrictive boundaries of moral police and stodgy institutions. But in reality it’s a burden.