Truth versus Relativism: What should you believe?

In a world where people qualify truth with pronouns, whose version of a story should be believe? Does absolute truth exist or should you accept relativism?

What is truth?

A man has been dragged before the ruler by his accusers. Of all the ‘felonies’ he was standing trial for the ruler was interested in one. In fact, all his interrogations revolved around that one theme. “Are you a King?” he asked. The accused response threw the ruler for a second. Somehow, Jesus was able to weave the answer to that question around one word: truth.

Pilate then asked, “What is truth?”

He did not wait for an answer. It is doubtful he actually wanted one. The issue of truth was a distraction as far as he was concerned. What was truth anyway? Pilate was schooled in Classical Greek philosophies. These philosophies propagated that truth is only relative. Pilate’s rhetorical question showed his disdain for Jesus’ point of view.  You could read his question in Nigerianese: Truth? Nothing like that Bros.

The Origin of Relativism

Many people today, like Pilate, believe in relativism. Relativism is the philosophy that there is no absolute truth. It is the believe that each point of view has its own truth. That is, what is true and what is not true is dependent on individual perception and consideration. And if you think long and hard about any matter and present it the way you understand it, then that is your truth and your truth is truth.

Two thousand years after Jesus was punished for speaking truth, something happened in the world of movies, where fictional characters reflect and sometimes influence the real world. In the world of this story, a turn of events led a street rat, who had fallen in love with a princess, to come upon a Genie. He was granted three wishes and since he needed to be a prince to marry the princess, one of the first wishes he made was to become a Prince.

I am not here to recount the story of Aladdin and his wonderful lamp. But, in the most recent version of that movie, the er… hero, after being a prince for less than twenty-four hour, started to believe he was indeed a prince. That was his truth. But you and I know that no matter how much he wished it, this truth had an expiry date.

So, what is truth?

Sometimes, the best way to explain a thing, is to identify and understand what it is not.  Truth is the absence of falsehood, lies and deceit. If truth were a sheet of paper in a solid colour, any stain on it would be a lie. It would not matter whether that deviation from the solid colour was a hue of the original.

For example, if truth were a solid Lemon, Emerald or Turquoise would be lies. It would not matter how closely related   to Lemon they were. The simply are not the target colour. In fact, we would be even angrier with these colours because their close resemblance to the original could suggest they exist to deceive us.

Yet, these days, people try to dilute the truth to suit their own thinking. First by arguing there is no absolute truth and then by coming up with phraseologies that confuse people into believing and agreeing that there is no absolute truth. For instance, have you ever heard the phrase, “speak your truth?” What does this phrase mean? Where did it come from?

Like Emerald and Turquoise to Lemon, this phrase is an aberration whose destination is deception. Of course, those who popularize it may have intended to decieve, they may just be doing their own thing, trying to be their own colour. But because their colour is so close to truth, it serves more to confuse.

Let us look at instances where this phrase is always used and understand why it is a dangerous thinking to accept and adopt.

Situation One

A woman accuses a man of sexual harassment. He says he did not sexually harass her.

They are both speaking their truths. Perhaps, you may be inclined to agree. Given that there are sometimes blurred lines and legal technicalities as to what makes the cut for sexual harassment. In some circles, looking at a woman in a way she finds “uncomfortable” is sexual harassment. Even asking a woman out, who is not into one can be termed harassment. The bigger question: Is a person’s lack of knowledge of what constitutes an infringement of the law a basis for declaring him guilt free? Well, does accepting that he is speaking “his truth” not a roundabout way of admitting that he will get punished for speaking truth? For indeed if by law, whatever he did is against the law, his truth becomes a lie.

Situation TWO

A woman falsely accuses a man of rape. He says he did not do it and that he has never had a sexual relationship with this woman.

Are you less hesitant to accept that they could both be speaking their truths, perhaps because the stakes are higher? Unlike sexual harassment, there are no blurred lines when out comes to rape. Someone’s will has been violated. They have said no and someone else has applied coercion and even force to take something they are not ready to give. But is it possible that they could both be telling their truths?

Actually, it is possible that a person may be saying something that they believe is true (their truth) whereas it is not true. Psychiatrists talk about delusions, false memories and confabulations. We also have people with cases of pseudologia fantastica.  In particular, confabulation is defined as “the spontaneous production of false memories, often of a very detailed nature”.   In her book, My Lie, author Meredith Maran writes about a false memory that led her to accusing her father of sexual molestation.

So, in reality, the same principle applies in the two situations presented. That a person believes what they are saying is true does not make their words truth. Truth is determined by what is factual, what is reality. Remember Aladdin? He lived a lie for a few hours and then Jafar turned up and he came back to the reality. Therefore, the creation of alternatives to truth should not be encouraged with woke phrases.

The Unchangeable Truth

But there is something else to note about truth. Something fundamental that will make you think twice about accepting or adopting this phrase that relativises truth.  Jesus was telling the ultimate truth about who he is and what he came to the earth to do. The Jews didn’t believe this truth, Pilate acted scornfully towards this truth, Jesus died for this truth. Yet this truth did not change. For that is nature of truth: it is unyielding, unbending, it is stubborn.

No matter how we attempt to bend the truth, it is not malleable. No matter what we choose to believe, truth still stands. Whether the issues being discussed are personal, biological, psychological, religious or otherwise, there cannot be two truths when they are conflicting each other: It is either men and women are equal or they are not; it is either evolution explains the existence of man on earth or it does not; it is either God accepts homosexuality or He does not; it is either the sky is blue or it is not; it is either Biodun raped Busola or he did not.  Subscribing to semi truths, half-truths, your truths, or his truth is simply a roundabout way of accepting a lie.