There’s always been the debate over whether truth is absolute or relative. This has always been a strong component of religion.
Most religions claim that they have the truth with a capital T. We all have experienced to some degree, religions, denominations, that have a creed that one must set to memory and believe if you want to be a member. An illustration is that some denominations may expect you to believe every word of the bible, which is a whole lot of words, and many of those words contradict one another. For these individuals, every word of the book is literally true once you come to understand their interpretation, and that’s the truth! Wars are fought over this kind of madness and many have lost their lives because of this type of fanatical fervor, even today. I always wonder is this truth or simply needing to be right?
One of the most significant things for me personally about serving as a UU clergyperson, and again, this is from my perspective, is that we say that no one has all of the truth about anything; no book, no religion, no leader. There is always more to learn. Each individual is on his or her own unique spiritual journey. Ours is not the only way. We don’t have to fight. We can let go and not be so invested in being right. We don’t have to think alike to love alike. We can discuss and debate each other respectfully. It’s all good. Many times we may not even know what to think or believe and that’s okay. There are times when we may see things that are not really there. We may think they are; we may have even convinced ourselves of the reality of what we see or believe. Then we must ask ourselves, is this just me wanting to be right? Do I want to be right or at peace?
Each person has the task, as a responsible member of society, of monitoring our own behavior and speech. When we become passionate or enthusiastic or angry about an issue, an idea or a person, we may voice, even promote our opinions and feelings as facts, as the truth. We can severely damage a person and/or the group, the community, in this way. Whether or not that is our conscious intention, the results are the same. We tear down rather than build up.
For many on the path to self-transformation, there will be a season when it will be more important to be “right” instead of at peace. After all, there is so much going on our beautiful planet that is unjust, I want to be part of the solution, part of the healing of the Earth. Who can argue with this type of reasoning?
I believe that asking ourselves if we are always needing to be right in a discussion or situation is the beginning of self–awareness and the pathway to inner peace.
Editor’s note: Michael Carter is a Unitarian minister who will be delivering the sermon at all Celebrations on Sunday, March 4th at Jubilee!