When I am home on breaks, I like to do home improvement projects, whether it involves appliances, outdoor yard work, or anything in between. One project some time ago involved me replacing an old three-way light switch. When I began installing the replacement switch, I noticed that the electrical connections were somewhat different, but didn’t mind it too much, since I knew it was a three-way switch, and is what I needed. Lo and behold, when I hooked up the switch, it only worked two ways- on from that switch, and off. Since I knew the other switch was working before, I just knew it had to be a bad new switch. So, I took it back to the store and bought a new one. When I put it in, the same thing happened again. I began to get flustered. A quick break, and subsequent perusal of the instructions, and I discovered the problem- I had two of the terminals reversed. After these were corrected, the lights worked in three ways as they should again.
I tell this story because it is problem that I faced, and that we face as a culture today. In my mind, I had clearly identified the source of that problem when I had the first switch- and I was 100% sure that it was a bad switch. However, it turned out that my mind had created an opinion which did not conform to reality, but I certainly treated it as if it was. Later, I discovered that I was incorrect, and was then set back in reality, where I could correct the problem.This problem is not limited to my home improvement projects- it is embedded into our daily life. Our mind is geared towards discovering reality, and when I did, as in this project, I was able to actively identify and fix the real problem. So often, though, we can create “projects” where there are none, and gloss over where the true “projects” rely, all by our own misconceptions.
Any visit to Facebook, especially these days, can confirm that we have opinions. In social media, we are allowed to express our opinions on a seemingly infinite number of subjects. Some of these are purely subjective. For example, I tend to like Ford vehicles. This doesn’t mean that I have proven that Ford is somehow able to be quantified as the best vehicle, but it simply indicates my preference for Ford vehicles. However, if I were to say that I don’t like the speed limit on I-44, and then live as if it doesn’t exist, this makes me wrong. My dislike for it doesn’t abolish the truth that the speed limit is still law. It is important to make this distinction, because it is often forgotten that our opinions don’t create facts, other than the fact that it is our opinion.
What about a real, objective example? What about the issue of abortion? Recently, I, along with hundreds of thousands of other people marched in D.C. to attest to the sanctity of human life, and this was welcomed by many, but bashed by many others. However, abortion is not the place for a subjective opinion. When it comes to abortion, the Church teaches that is always and everywhere objectively evil- meaning that there is no circumstance where abortion can be considered a good. This is a part of our innate natural law, and has been since since man was first formed. However, there are arguments out there today that life actually doesn’t begin when the two cells collide and multiply; or if it does begin then, it should not be given the same dignity of a grown man. For many, unfortunately, the grave nature of abortion is thought to be a right, and this is due to the opinion of many that it is either morally excusable, or even laudable (sadly) to procure one. However, no matter the opinion, nor the argument, we are still left with our natural and Divine Law, just as an opinion on the speed limit doesn’t change it’s legality (nor our legal duty to follow it!).
When I discovered that I was in the wrong in blaming a light switch for the problem in my project, it was because I was actively seeking the truth of the matter. I realized I had to look for the truth, no matter what I thought it was. It turned out that I was indeed incorrect in my diagnosis, and had to come back into conformity with the reality of that situation. When it comes to our daily encounters, whether with switches or any of our actions, we always must have an openness and desire to discover the objective truth in every situation. We cannot get to the heart of the abortion issue, for example, without openly seeking the objective truth of the dignity of a person and the weight of our actions, rather than flying an opinion as our standard, and then going into battle by justifying why abortion should be a right. We cannot justify breaking the speed limit without seeking the objective truth of our laws, and their purpose. Our opinions cannot and should not become the basis of reality, but reality must become the basis of our opinions. For it is in the truth that we are set free (and we can finally fix light switches to boot!).
“Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” -Ephesians 4:25