Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
“Speaking your truth means that you stay true to who you are, whether it’s your feelings, opinions, or morals. Don’t hide what you feel for the sake of someone else’s approval of you, it shouldn’t work that way (sic). Rather, you should stay true to your own opinion and voices, no matter what anyone else may think. While it’s easier said than done, you won’t ever regret speaking your truth” (source). Look at website after blog post, philosopher after supposed pundit, and you get further definitions of what people mean to convey by the phrase, “Speak your truth.” How did the phrase originate?
Huffington Post credits Oprah Winfrey in a speech at The Golden Globes in 2018. She advocated creating positive change by “speaking your truth.” The article’s writer, Claire Fallon, seemed shocked and aghast at backlash to the phrase. Like Byron Tau of The Wall Street Journal, who tweeted, “Oprah employed a phrase that I’ve noticed a lot of other celebrity (sic) using these days: ‘your truth’ instead of ‘the truth.’ Why that phrasing? ‘Your truth’ undermines the idea of a shared set of common facts'” (1/8/18). She quoted Joseph A. Wulfsohn, who objected, “When we rely on ‘our truths,’ we get to choose what to believe.” Fallon defended the phrase as an exhortation for the less powerful to find their own voices and credited a 1927 poem as the genesis of the phrase, in a Max Ehrmann poem entitled “Desiderata” (source).
So while there can be great merit and value to one respecting the feelings and opinions of others or advocating for those without power, there is inherent danger in the very idea of individual, subjective truth. In her excellent book, Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey quotes Udo Middelmann, who said we learn about objective truth from the time we are born. She then writes, “When a baby crawls to the edge of the crib and bumps his head against the wooden bars, he learns in a painful way that reality is objective. When a toddler tilts his high chair back until it falls to the floor, he learns that there is an objective structure to the universe. Reality does not bend itself to our subjective desires–a lesson that can be painful to learn even for adults. Thus we can confidently reject any philosophical position that leads to subjectivism. Why? Because it fails to account for what ordinary experience teaches us day by day. It is in tension with the data of experience” (395).
Our calling is much higher than being true to self, following our own feelings, opinions, and morals. So much can distort and deform these things–selfishness, fleshly desires, improper and immoral guides and guidance, etc. (cf. Eph. 2:1-3; 4:17-19). Truth is transcendent (existing apart from and not subject to the material universe) and immutable (unchanging over time or unable to be changed).
- It can be practiced (John 3:21)
- It can be known and it emancipates (John 8:32)
- It is exclusive (John 14:6)
- It is something we can be guided into, and it is exhaustive (John 16:13)
Men try to suppress it (Rom. 1:18), exchange it for a lie (Rom. 1:25), and disobey it (Rom. 2:8). But, philosophy defeats the idea of subjective truth (“your truth” and “my truth”) and Scripture makes clear that there is only one truth. You don’t have your truth and neither do I. God reveals the truth to us, and He holds us accountable to follow it.