There are a lot of people who believe there is only one truth in every situation, when in reality the truth can be relative, and what is true to one person, in not always true to someone else. I’m not talking about telling the truth, or lying, or being dishonest, I’m talking about what people believe to be real in the world and their lives. Each person has a different version of reality, and it’s that version they live each day.
While there are generally accepted versions of reality, and portions of reality most of us agree to abide by such as laws, moral codes, and social folkways, there are more subtle aspects of life that are vastly different between individuals. What constitutes love and respect, what it means to be thankful or gracious, what it means to be kind to someone and to take care of them. While these seem like universal truths, these not only vary based on culture, religion, or gender they are also affected by status, socioeconomic rank, education, emotional development, and outlook on life.
Let’s take work or our jobs as an example. To some work means long hours of physical labor, toiling to accomplish something physically tangible. Yet others it’s at a desk crunching numbers or designing the layout for a creative marketing piece – each one defines work, and each belief associated with work is the personal truth those people hold around that activity. Someone who works for the state as a road construction worker may think they are truly working, but someone who is at a desk all day and in meetings isn’t really working. Perception based on our relative experiences shapes how we view other people and the world.
Even those who work in the same department in an office may have vastly different definitions of what constitute work. The question is can they both be right? I’d argue they can be and their views are completely justified. A larger question is can they appreciate that someone else doing something vastly different could working harder or less hard than they are? I think this is where things become muddled and the breakdown between what is personal truth and what is not begins.
Even if our ideas about what something are defined and don’t match up with someone else doesn’t mean one person is right and the other is wrong. It’s important we understand our differences and see that truth is not a universal principle in every situation. When it comes to linear actions truth can be measured against progress and evidence, but when it becomes more subjective and less objective the lines blur. But the truth is out there, it’s just not always the same for everyone and appreciating that is a large part of understanding the world and those who live in it with us.