There’s a debate going on in society that isn’t directly talked about, but happens all around us all the time. The debate is between which is right – correcting people or proclaiming a message?
We see this being played out online in social media all the time. Someone proclaims some message they believe in, whether it’s political in nature, religious, sports, or anything else for that matter. It the subject is controversial or somehow touches on the labels we put on ourselves, then you can bet there will be someone replying with a “correction” about the information that was presented.
We see this being played out in other ways as well. Open a newspaper to the editorial section or watch a news channel that covers politics – see the spin doctors all over the place. And on and on it goes.
All of this raises several questions for me. Are there such things as false doctrines and beliefs? And what should be done about these false doctrines and beliefs?
I believe that the answer to the first question is that yes, there are false doctrines and beliefs. To some degree, we all hold false doctrines. There’s not a person around that has the whole truth or even all of the “right” truth. And I can tell you that the more you feel the urge to defend one of your beliefs from attack, you might want to start looking at that belief a little closer. If your belief is sooooooo true, then should you really worry about any attack on it. Wouldn’t it hold up to the light of examination? Or are we so concerned that our belief will fall apart when scrutinized? If that’s the case, what are we really believing in? In fact, we should welcome scrutiny so that we can keep moving towards truth and away from false beliefs.
The second question is much more difficult – what should be done about false doctrines and beliefs? Do we confront people and messages that are spouting false doctrines.
I don’t think there is an easy, one-size-fits-all answer here. On the one hand you can make the argument that not saying anything means that you are allowing potential evil to exist – doing nothing to stop it’s spread. On the other hand you can say that there are so many false doctrines out there that you could spend your entire life combating these and yet you would have never advanced the truth, just cut down on lies.
Both of these arguments carry truth with them.
I’ve done both of these methods. Here’s what I’ve learned. I have been the guy so concerned with orthodoxy of thought in various parts of life. I spent time correcting, or trying to correct. I ended up feeling very negative and discouraged. It’s extremely depressing to spend your time combating someone else or opposing beliefs. It drains you and ages you. Ultimately, you are known as the guy who is against things. And often the people you are trying to correct are not interested in being corrected or open to learning anything. Plus, it’s rather arrogant to go around thinking you are the arbiter of truth who has to correct people.
I’ve also been out proclaiming things as well. It’s much more uplifting. It means you stand for something beyond just being a roadblock. When you proclaim, you are advancing the beliefs you hold up. You put them up for public scrutiny. You learn more. And you share these beliefs with more people.
Here’s the deal. There are a lot of people who are closed minded. Debating them is a waste of time. They aren’t interested in learning. They are only interested in being right. Giving them attention only fuels them and gives them and their ideas legitimacy. It’s not easy to ignore ideas that are blatantly false. But sometimes getting into a pissing match with someone who has blinders on is only going to leave you wet and exhausted. My father gave me great advice on this – don’t argue with an idiot. They will bring you down to their level and then beat you from years of experience.
Engage with people who are willing to listen, but also be willing to listen to them as well. You might just learn something yourself. Remember, you don’t have all the answers or all the truth.
Here’s the short version of everything I just wrote in this post.
You have a choice. You can spend your time talking about what other people are talking about, or you can spend your time talking about what you want to talk about in the hopes that others will talk about it to. Which would you rather do?