Colorado State University adapted some helpful definitions about truth for its young writers from the classic “The Little Brown Handbook (Fowler, H. Ramsey. The Little, Brown Handbook. Boston: Little, Brown, 1986.)
“A FACT is verifiable. We can determine whether it is true by researching the evidence.”
“An OPINION is a judgment based on facts, an honest attempt to draw a reasonable conclusion from factual evidence.”
“Unlike an opinion, a BELIEF is a conviction based on cultural or personal faith, morality, or values…They cannot be disproved or even contested in a rational or logical manner.”
“Another kind of assertion that has no place in serious argumentation is PREJUDICE, a half-baked opinion based on insufficient or unexamined evidence. At best, prejudices are careless oversimplifications. At worst, they reflect a narrow-minded view of the world.”
It is a confusing world out there, especially when it comes to what people call “political correctness”. In response to the feeling that nothing anyone says is “safe” to say without getting in trouble, many of us have decided we’ll just tell the truth and to heck with the consequences. And, if we say whatever pops into our heads, and people are mad, well, maybe they just can’t handle the truth and whose fault is that?
Scripturally, I’d like to challenge that idea. Jesus says that HE is the way, the truth, and the life. So the rest of us can’t quite say that we own the truth.
Many of the things we say, especially in anger, aren’t truths. Sometimes, they may be based in facts, but even if they are, they are often an interpretation about what those facts mean. And those interpretations are usually either opinion, belief, or prejudice.
Let me give us a scripture to keep in mind when we are ready to tell someone like it is.
“A fool gives full vent to anger, but the wise quietly holds it back.” Proverbs 29:11
Not everything we think needs to be public. And if we decide we should say what is on our mind, it is important to understand what it is we are sharing first. Is it our opinion, our belief, or our prejudice? Our prejudice should be kept behind our lips and prayed over. Our opinion and belief may be appropriate to share, but if we understand that it is different than fact, we can be more careful about when and if we share it. Then, we can share it with more love and more humility.
Rev. Jana Quisenberry is the minister at Brightwood Christian Church. She's an ordained pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). A graduate of Transylvania University in Lexington, KY and Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, IN, She now resides in Mt. Lebanon with her husband, two children, and dog, Sookie. Pastor Jana loves the church, science fiction, and coffee.
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