Saturday, June 26, 2010

Truth and Love

The truth about which I will speak is truth of importance to us. It is truth that matters to us. It is truth about us.

Think for a moment about all the many people you have known. Only a handful ever spoke the truth to you.

Truth is rare. It is not easy. Those who speak the truth are invaluable.

But who speaks the truth? From whom can we expect the truth?

We know from whom we cannot expect it. Those who would manipulate us for their own ends are not truth-tellers. The truth matters nothing to them. For them speech is control. By it they wish to make us act in a way that best suits them.

I am dismayed by how much of what is said is an attempt at control. It is ubiquitous. 

Where, then, are the truth-tellers? To whom should we go if we wish to hear the truth?

The truth-tellers are those who know us well. They know what we've done, they know of what we're capable. They know where we chronically fall short. (When we fall short, isn't that sin typical? We are creatures of habit. Sins are habitual.) They know our virtues (paltry though they are). 

But knowledge is not sufficient. Indeed one might use knowledge of another as a means of control. What then must be added?

Wisdom, of course. (By wisdom I mean moral knowledge. It is knowledge of how best to act.) We cannot expect truth from a person if that person lacks all moral discernment. Truth matters, I've said. It is important to us. But what matters? What is important? Achievement of the good. Thus we must look to those who know the good for truth. 

But we must add to wisdom something more. We must add the desire to do good for others, to benefit those to whom we speak. This desire is love. Indeed of the three - knowledge, wisdom and love - love seems the primary. If we love another, knowledge of the other comes quite easily. Love observes carefully; love listens quietly. If I love you, give me a bit of time with you and I will come to know you.

Love also begets wisdom. To love is to desire the good of another. Love then searches out the good and thus over time becomes wisdom. 

So I say this. If you wish to hear the truth, listen to those who love you. Indeed so strong is the link here that I would say this too: if from another you know that you do not hear the truth, that person does not love you.

(Don't complain that I over-simplify. I know that what my conclusion admits of degrees. Not all love is perfect. Some is better, some is worse. Love waxes and wanes. Through all this, the connection remains. A worse love is a love that has less regard for truth. A better love is a love from which flows more truth. When love waxes, truth increases; when it wanes, truth wanes.)