“What is laid down, ordered, and factual is never enough to embrace the whole truth: life always spills over the rim of every cup.” −Unknown
To prevent confusion and internal conflict, you’ll need to remain open to new ideas and be prepared to accept that truth evolves very quickly. With each new experience or idea you encounter, your definitions for things change; they have to because the more you know, the more you can know.
The Evolution of the Cell Phone
In 1982 the FCC authorized commercial cellular service in the United States. At that time, a cell phone was a rare and highly prized possession. It was a symbol of status and importance, and to use a cell phone in public, added to one’s social standing.
Over the course of many years society has changed its perception of “truth” regarding public use of cell phones and, at each stage of change, there was a time of controversy and debate. In 2001 New York was the first state to ban hand-held cell phone use while driving because of the increased chances of collision. According to the 1997 New England Journal of Medicine’s examination of hospital records, drivers are four times more likely to be involved in a car crash if they are talking or texting on a cell phone while driving. These new bits of data added to our collective pool of knowledge and produced a change in the notion of the use of cell phones for many people–but not all people. The Missouri Association of Realtors is one group that has not changed its view of cell phone use while driving. Its position is, “We’re generally opposed to restrictions on cell phone use, when they’re used as cell phones” said Sam Licklider, a lobbyist for the association. “The simple fact is, [realtors] are in their car a lot and they use their phones for business.” Truth is slower to update according to your perspectives.
In January 2009 the National Safety Council called for a ban on all cell phone use while driving—hands-free and all. I wonder how truth will update.
It’s easy to look back and watch the truth of cell phone use evolve over the years, but it isn’t so easy to see truth evolve in your life day by day. Just like the cell phone, your definition and truth about all your values will change with each new experience. For example, the most often talked about value in my coaching practice is family. The definition of family values varies among reference sources, but basically it means to prioritize the relationships with parents and children, whether living together or not.
Family relationships can create beautiful support and can also crush spirits, yet most people are stuck with an outdated definition of this value—probably the one their parents gave to them. As you grew from child to adult, the definition of family had to change to include people with whom there is no genetic connection. Friends become “family” when they love and support you. A member of your genetic family may be intentionally spiteful and mean, even steal from you or physically abuse you. This brother or sister or even parent is, by genetic connection, technically in your family, but is he or she entitled to the openness, trust, loyalty, respect, and generosity that a family member is entitled to? What if you have a family of your own now? Do you prioritize all family members in the same way?
Confusion, guilt, and, stress
People who stubbornly hold fast to the truth of any value will inevitably experience internal conflicts. Using this family example, how conflicted would you feel if your evil family member asked to move in with you? Where do limited resources go: to your children’s college funds or to bail out a dead-beat parent?
The bottom line is this: remain open to the evolution of truth in all areas of life. Evolution is, by definition, unpredictable, so allow truth simply to evolve as it will. Try to be curious about the path truth takes and stay committed to updating all the values that connect with evolving truth. When presented with a situation that creates an internal conflict, check first with your values to ensure they are up to date. It’s cool how a quick look at your values can make everything clear.
Just because you are clear, doesn’t mean your follow-through will be easy. I don’t know anyone who is comfortable making tough choices about family. The best most people can achieve is feeling in control of the ultimate choice made—whether you like your choice or not.
What do you think? Can important and foundational “truths” change? Have you experienced internal conflict when presented with a value that’s outdated?
Related Tip of the Week: Accept vs. Agree,
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