What version of the “truth” do you believe?

Published June 24, 2015   Posted in How to Think

Religion, cars, politics, attitudes and philosophies – from a very early age, I have found myself fascinated by what people believe.  Our world offers many different things to believe in, thought processes, perspectives and rationalizations, and naturally, people presume that the collection of their beliefs can loosely be considered “the truth”.

Question markAs a child, I questioned this apparent madness.  My parents took me to church as a kid – a presbyterian church with a certain interpretation of the Bible and all that comes with the whole idea of Christianity and a belief in God.

I knew others who attended a more strict Baptist church with their own unique interpretation of this religion.  And then, there were Lutherans.  And Protestant Catholics.  Jews.  Arabs.  Buddhists.  Atheists.  The list goes on and on.

Warning, kid logic: If our presbyterian church offered “THE” religion, why are people choosing other options?  Wait…there are options?

They all can’t be “right”!  I asked myself why I am learning a particular interpretation of religion when there is no guarantee that this one is the right version.  Maybe Protestant Catholics have their finger on the right version.  Maybe the Buddhists do.  And who knows how much has been “lost in translation” in the Bible.  Maybe those words aren’t even truly the words of God.  For the love of all things small and fury, why are we all doing this?!?

(Being a kid was great, wasn’t it?)  🙂

And naturally, politics is no different.  Democrats and Republicans battle it out as if their political philosophy is THE solution to all worldly problems.  Others believe that we should let one of the third parties have a chance at running this country and screwing the preverbal pooch under their political philosophy.  There is capitalism.  Socialism.  Communism.  Like religion, the list of political “truths” is virtually never-ending, and they all can’t be right.

People swear by (or at!) their Ford trucks.  Or Chevy Trucks.  Or Honda.  Or BMW.  “What’s the best car out there?”  Like so many other of life’s questions, the answer is “It depends on who you ask”.

Our collection of “truths”

Generally, people establish their belief in “truths” on their own experiences in life.  Some of the time, our system of beliefs is built off of what we read online, or are taught in school, or were told to us by a trusted friend.  Other times, our beliefs are simply what we want to believe outside of experiences or so-called “empirical evidence”.

And our beliefs change over time.  Mine sure did, especially after I made the decision to retire early and enjoy more of my life outside of an office.

In truth ( <- see what I did, there? ), our beliefs are very much the truth…the truth for us.  They may or may not be the truth for someone else.  After all, each of us hold a very different belief structure based on our own experiences, wants and desires, biases and pre-dispositions.

For example, I have been told time and time again (sometimes with numbers, charts and fancy graphics) that American cars are the worst; the worst crash test ratings, the worst gas mileage, the worst reliability, the worst everything.  But, my family and I have owned American cars all of our lives, and they have performed flawlessly the large majority of the time.

The “truth” of the inferiority of American cars simply is not true for me.  The American cars that I have owned have never appeared inferior to my neighbor’s foreign cars.  Both cars move occupants from Point A to Point B.  Both cars provide comfort.  So, what gives?

Most people mean well, but their version of the truth is only as deep as their own experiences, readings and personal desires.

Then again, so is yours.  So is mine.

Having confidence in our own truths

It is easy to care about what other people think of us.  But remember that their version of the truth is probably very, very different than yours.  If you care about other people’s truths, then you may not care enough about your own.  You may constantly doubt yourself or look over your shoulder to make sure nobody is snickering at you.

That is no way to live your life.

Within the early retirement community, we deal with this every day.  Someone sees one of us driving down the road in our 20-year old hoopty of a vehicle, and they might assume that we are poor and horrible managers of our money.  After all, their version of the truth states that if you make good money, you will spend it on a nicer car.

Big houses.  Nice cars.  Expensive wrist watches.  The truth is if you’re smart enough to make money, you’ll buy expensive things.  Therefore, possessing expensive things makes you smart.

See?  See how easy it is to design a set of “truths” that, if believed, makes life just a little bit easier to figure out?

And we are still worried about what other people think of us?

Ignoring other people’s truths ultimately comes down to one important element: confidence.  Having confidence in yourself and the decisions that you make each and every day makes other people’s version of the truth relatively meaningless.  After all, it’s their version, not yours.

We have already made the decision that living a normal life isn’t for us – at least, “normal” in the way that our present society defines it (it’s society’s truth!).  Retiring at 60 just does not sound all that much fun to us.  Driving around expensive cars no longer appeals to our better judgment.  Big houses and expensive things do not bring lifelong happiness.

This philosophy wreaks havoc with other people’s beliefs.  And that’s okay.

The rejection of other “truths” in our lives by building a solid level of confidence in our own is the key to keeping a big, giant grin on your face each and every day.

Let that Mercedes driver think that you are poor and uneducated.  After all, you will be giving your ’84 Corolla a carwash at 10am on Monday morning while that Mercedes driver is still working for a living.

Ignoring any and all advice?

In my stalwart, head-long, full-speed, barreling out of control attempt at arguing the point of other people’s truths, I am not telling you to immediately ignore every single bit of advice, ever, from any person who ever offers it to you.

Nor am I arguing their truths to be “wrong”.

Nay.  I believe that we are all in the position to learn something from almost anyone.  If someone gives you advice, take it.  That does not mean altering your version of the truth so it matches theirs, of course.  But, considering other truths might help you to better design your own.

For example, at one point in my life, I believed a certain collection of truths about society that enabled spending on stupid stuff.  I felt okay about this spending at the time because everything was budgeted for and I was not living paycheck to paycheck.  I did not have credit card debt.  It appeared as if I was doing everything “right”.  So great, let’s spend some cash!

Now, I realize that my truths back then totally sucked.  I fell into early retirement almost by accident, and the philosophy grew on me.  My truths began to change because I was willing to accept the possibility that maybe – just maybe – my truths may not have been in my best interest.

Imagine that – admitting that the way I lived my life for so many years may not have been the most productive.

And so, confidence in our set of beliefs is absolutely critical to achieving our goals, but a complete rejection of anything and everything that does not fall neatly in line with them makes us, well, closed-minded and stagnant.

That’s MY version of THE TRUTH.

What’s yours?

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15 responses to “What version of the “truth” do you believe?”

  1. Love this, Steve. So true. And it’s important to recognize that our own truth can change. If we let ourselves believe that what we think=us, we’ll be stuck, unable to grow and evolve. Though you can probably guess where we fall on the political spectrum, we try to stay open to other ideas and the experiences of others to shape our evolving thinking. That openness is important, especially as we get older. Last thing we want is to get stuck in our ways or beliefs, especially after we retire. Guessing you agree!

    • Steve says:

      Yup, I absolutely agree – remaining stubbornly behind our truths over the course of a lifetime can seriously close a lot of doors…doors that may have otherwise provided a pathway towards a better, happier life.

      Thanks for your thoughts. 🙂

  2. Stockbeard says:

    “Retiring at 60 just does not sound all that much fun to us. Driving around expensive cars no longer appeals to our better judgment. Big houses and expensive things do not bring lifelong happiness.”

    Check, check, and check. You speak the truth, at least to me 🙂

  3. Petra says:

    Hmm. Your personal truth will always be that cigarettes don’t kill. Until they kill someone you know, or until the doctor tells you that you have lung cancer or COPD or heart disease because of it.

    Your American car may very well be an unsafe car, or an unreliable one. (I don’t know, because I have never looked at the statistics, because I don’t own a car). It hasn’t killed you yet, but that still doesn’t mean that it can’t be the unsafest car around.

    I’ve had this discussion with my in-laws, who drove around for years without seat belts. And they never got killed. So they thought driving without seatbelts was safe. However, driving without seatbelts killed many others. Since seatbelts became mandatory, traffic accident deaths have decreased a lot, and we know that part of that is because people now often wear seatbelts. (Other parts could be safer cars, safer roads, better health care etc).

    So I plead for a use of statistics now and then. Your car hasn’t failed you yet, your cigarette hasn’t killed you yet, your lack of giving accurate sexual education hasn’t caused a teenage pregnancy or STD in your own children, yet … But statistically speaking, you are at a higher risk of trouble. And for some people, that risk will materialize itself into a true problem.

    Risks can be measured. Sometimes there is A truth.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Petra, appreciate your thoughts on this matter. And I definitely agree, the use of data and statistics can certainly be a qualifying factor in what the truth SHOULD BE for some people, depending on their circumstances. And like I said, truths do very much change, and like you alluded to, one’s experiences are often the catalyst.

  4. Mrs SSC says:

    I always think of truth as being something that is factual and has no room for debate. So, I tend to think of matters like this as more of a belief – which is more based on a trust or faith. But, you do make a good point – it does come down to the confidence we have in our decisions!

    But, I do appreciate the range of ‘truths’ that people hold – it makes the world a more vibrant place!

    • Steve says:

      I agree, Mrs. SSC! If there was only one way to do everything, it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting going through life, and everybody would essentially be doing the exact same thing until something busts at the seams.

      I enjoy the ability to make my own trail through life – the trail that works best for my wife and I. 🙂

  5. Very insightful. I was literally just thinking about this the other day. Why do we do the things we do? We do we believe the things we believe? And why are we so different?

    Is it because we are stupid? No, it’s because we are remarkable! We are filled with emotions, faith, experiences, opinions, etc. Truth is…truth is relative.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for reading, Luke. I don’t know if [the collective] “we” will ever truly answer the question “Why do we do the things we do?”, but it sure is fun to try. 🙂

  6. Without getting too preachy here, I think it’s great that everyone has their own personal truths. It does make the world very interesting and great to hang out and talk with new people. On the contrary when those “truths” are based on ignorance (like Petra mentioned above) it can get a little frustrating. These are the people I tend to hold my tongue with and just let it go, because it’s not worth debating.

    • Steve says:

      I absolutely agree, Fervent. There are a lot of truths out there that are based on ignorance and biases, and those should definitely be ignored. I think that is where having confidence comes into play and not worrying too much about what other people believe.

      Thanks for reading.

  7. […] What version of the “truth” do you believe? Steve wrote a great piece on finding your own truth/belief system. Everyone thinks they have the right solution for problems, but the reality is that truths can be highly subjective. And they can change over time. Don’t be afraid to discover new truths and ways to think about life and happiness. Attempting to rigidly quantify everything in life and then sticking to that rigidity might not be in your best interest. […]

  8. Chris Muller says:

    Great topic Steve. People, including myself, tell themselves their own version of the truth for sure. Everyone should get to share their own opinion, even if it’s difficult to hear sometimes. That’s what makes us all so different. That’s why I read blogs or go on Twitter… I am curious to see what others have to say. It’s in our DNA. We’re curious beings. Yet, when we disagree with someones truth, something changes. We go into defense-mode or debate. Yet another part of our human nature. It’s fascinating when you think about it. And frustrating! Excellent post, my good sir.

    • Steve says:

      Hey Chris,

      I agree, it is frustrating. I also think that many like to read opinions of others, but as a means to justify their own perspective on the issue rather than going in with a truly open mind. But those who actively seek alternative points of view, I think, are the ones that I want to learn from. 🙂

      Thanks Chris – appreciate your response!

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