We can be really certain about things, and really wrong – all at the same time. Why?
You probably see this in business, maybe at home, sometimes in your own thinking, certainly in politics, and all over the media – people are “certain” about things. But when you track the story, follow the conversation, or wait it out a bit, you often find that what they were so certain about was simply wrong. It wasn’t grounded in the truth, it wasn’t thought though, it didn’t have the permanence they believed. They were wrong.
I’ve had some people be insistent about things, about how I should live and decisions I should make and I bet you have that happen sometimes too. But a person’s insistence isn’t an argument. Because “I’m certain” isn’t an enduring reason. It doesn’t point to the truth.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably found yourself being pushy about an idea, or really believing in something, and also found yourself to be wrong. That sucks. I’ve had two loves in my life, real ones I mean, and each time I knew it would last forever and could end only with death, but each time it ended, and I wasn’t dead and neither were they. I was certain, but I was wrong – or at least not accurate.
It worries me. It worries me when people push an idea using certainty, rather than good logic, or good thinking, or at least come at it as an experiment. It worries me more when that person is me, and it’s my own thinking about my own life. And I’m sure. And I’m wrong.
This post isn’t because I think I’ve fucked something up recently (although I’ve definitely botched my fair share of things through the years), but it’s because of all the small ways that we’re certain about things that just aren’t quite right. The cumulation of them can be annoying at best, and devastating at the boundary.
It’s hard to say how to avoid this entirely, but there is a fundamental that can help. It’s this: Certainty is a feeling, and feelings are transient. The truth, I mean the real truth (not “your truth” and “my truth”) is not always easy to approach, and not always friendly, but it is unyielding and always finds its way.
Don’t defend your certainty, pursue the truth.
Buz OK Smith says
Man this is why I Love you !!!
It’s better when we love! Thanks for the big heart you bring everywhere, Buzz.
I think that people identify and relate to things based on their experiences, backgrounds, stories and come up with their own truths that help them make sense of things and create certainties, because it can scary to not have things we can be sure of. We need to believe in certainties. (Which we feel the need to share with others, not realizing that we are sharing with someone with a conflicting truth).
When ideas or beliefs we come to live by are challenged by facts, it can lead us to question other things. So it’s harder for some to see that, because their ‘truth’ is tied into their person.
And that’s when being wrong sucks the most. Messy.
I’m glad you’re bringing this up, Afnan. We definitely have our own paths, stories, experiences and backgrounds that colour our experience, and our representation of truth and I don’t want to marginalize that for a second. Our experiences matter. We want to believe in certainties, but we don’t have to! There are very few “needs” that we actually have, but we sure have preferences that impact us!
One of the risks is not questioning. And you’re right, when we do, it gets messy. As is life ;)