The Value of Relationships and Experiential Truth

by J.D. Roth

Sometimes Kris wonders why I’m so easy-going, or why I don’t care passionately about politics like she does. Or a blog reader will wonder why I don’t get uptight about a comment. Or a friend asks why I don’t stand up for what I believe in. I’ve never been able to articulate it until now.

Colinmarshall recent posted this (awesome) Ask Metafilter question:

What in life did it take you a surprisingly long time to realize you’ve been doing wrong all along?

This question generated 750 responses from all over the map, both practical and philosophical. The response that resonated with me — the one that clarified for me why I’ve come to value relationships more than being right, than finding Absolute Truth — comes from joost de vries:

What I used to do wrong when I as younger is that I thought Truth was much more important than it is.

Yes, I could demolish a lot of positions by holding them up to the harsh glaring light of objective eternal truth. Hardly anything measures up actually. But then nothing much is left.

My discovery was that I realized that for me this seeking of ‘eternal truth’ had emotional and social underpinnings. Being happy and engaged with people would obviate the paramount need for logical truth.

Another take on this is that logic shows inconsistencies perhaps but can’t say anything about what is of value. What is of value is necessarily founded on subjective emotion and experience and thus inextricably linked with dependent truth, inconsistencies, experiential truths. Those people whose logic I criticized were much better in reasoning in this experiential logic than I was. I came to the conclusion that this kind of reasoning is an essential life skill to have a fulfilling life and that I had a lot to learn.

In other words: It’s better to be happy and have friends than it is to be right. Especially if what is “right” changes as you age.

This is why my personal motto is do what works for you. I really don’t believe there’s One True Way to anything. If you want to be Christian, be Christian. If you want to be Muslim, be Muslim. If you want to be atheist, be atheist. Choose the political party that makes you happy.

It saddens me when people feel the need to evangelize their positions, especially to the point that they say and do hateful things. What’s the point? What does that add to life?

The older I get, the more joy I get out of personal interaction, out of spending time with people of all ways of thought. What does it matter if my personal convictions are different than theirs? I can still learn from them and laugh with them. And it’s the learning and laughing that are important.

Updated: 10 July 2010

Do what's right. Do your best. Accept the outcome.
Copyright © 1994 - 2022 by J.D. Roth