The Need to Discern the Truth

Mr. Conrad Saldanha

More often than not we judge others by the actions they take or the behaviour they indulge in, while we judge ourselves by our inner motives.

We judge others by what we see and experience while we judge ourselves by what others cannot see. We tend to rationalise and justify all our actions and behaviour to protect the image we have of ourselves. In this way we build a self-righteous wall around us from which we can continuously judge and condemn others while we bask in our inner self-praise for all that we do. We need to feel better than the rest.

For instance we may pride ourselves in doing acts of charity like visiting the sick. But when we sit by the bedside of a sick patient we let loose a barrage of questions very similar to an interrogation; asking the patient what happened, how did it happen, when did it happen and so on. The sick patient may be answering these questions for the umpteenth time. But we are not sensitive to that. In our mind, to be concerned, means asking questions. Because if we don’t then we believe that we are not really showing them our concern. We justify our asking of questions by our inner feeling of concern.

On the other hand if another person sits silently beside the sick patient and we observe that person, we judge that person as being unconcerned because he/she is not even communicating with the sick patient. We judge the person by what we see; by his/her behaviour. And we unconsciously rate ourselves as being more charitable than this person. Whereas in actual fact the sick person may be wanting that person to just sit there in silence and be with him/her.

We do not see the truth in many areas of life. We miss the mark. And because of this we err in our behaviour and judgement. When we think of ourselves as virtuous we are actually sinners. The meaning of sin is to miss the mark. The Greek word for “sin” is hamartia, an archery term for “missing the mark.” When we see the truth of things then we will always behave in an appropriate manner. We will not miss the mark.

We are unable to see the truth because we are driven by this urge to present a clean and perfect image of ourselves to the world. We want to perceive ourselves and to be perceived by others as being perfect in an imperfect world. But the more we resist the imperfections within ourselves the more they persist. We cannot live life putting on a show of perfection for the world to see while our imperfections eat into us and destroy our entrails. So we are shocked if one day we hear that this perfect and nice person has committed a grave crime or behaved in a most disgraceful manner. The truth will always surface now or later piercing through the carefully curated image.

All of us have our foibles, flaws and blemishes.

If we look at a thermostat we find that it’s on and off switches are not in the very same position. If they were in the very same position, then when the thermostat wanted to come on it would go off and when it wanted to go off it would come on. Even though there would be a perfect fit between the on/off switches the thermostat wouldn’t work. There needs to be a level of tolerance, say of +/- 1 degree Fahrenheit so that the thermostat works.

We need our own levels of tolerance. We need to see and accept the defects in our lives because they make us human. One can’t love a perfect person. One can only admire such a person. Perfection alienates. Vulnerability elicits love. Acceptance of our imperfections makes us more understanding of ourselves and others. We realise that we are a work in progress continuously trying to discern the truth so that we can grow and behave appropriately. Perfection doesn’t mean perfect actions in a perfect world but appropriate actions in an imperfect world. And we will achieve this only if we assiduously strive to discern the truth of things. For that we need to connect with God within us. We need to challenge the assumptions by which we live. We need to align with the truth of Life and to live the life of Life.