How can we be wise about choosing who and what to trust?
In other words, how can we be sure we’re being appropriately discerning? This is a big topic that can be looked at from a number of angles. The first few perspectives below are recaps of teachings from other places on this site. Next, you’ll find the 7 Steps to Greater Discernment. Although the phrase “7 steps” is used to organize the topic, in reality the “steps” are different lenses from which to consider this topic. You can dive into any of the angles that most serve you right now.
Discernment, Possibility & The Scientific Method
Consider the following idea and whether you tend to fall more heavily on one side or the other:
Discernment is a two-sided coin: On one side is reason and healthy skepticism, and on the other is curiosity and openness.
Taken together, both sides are, in effect, the scientific method.
The scientific method is a process for experimentation that is used to explore observations and answer questions… Some areas of science can be more easily tested than others. For example, scientists studying how stars change as they age or how dinosaurs digested their food cannot fast-forward a star’s life by a million years or run medical exams on feeding dinosaurs to test their hypotheses. When direct experimentation is not possible, scientists modify the scientific method… But even when modified, the goal remains the same: to discover cause and effect relationships by asking questions, carefully gathering and examining the evidence, and seeing if all the available information can be combined into a logical answer.– Sciencebuddies.org
Don’t forget the curiosity aspect of science. Science only begins when we’re curious about something. Curiosity leads to the development of a hypothesis — a theory, a speculation, a proposed explanation — that we set out to test. We continue to revise the theory based on what we learn.
In other words, we accept “x” as a working hypothesis and postpone conclusions until the subject is further explored.
One of the most powerful ways we can combat the enemies of truth is to be curious — to entertain the possibility that difficult stories may be true — and then to test those speculations. Consider this idea for a moment. Even when NDAs are used for power abuse, even when compartmentalization keeps people ignorant of the whole truth, and when disinformation campaigns subvert the truth, we can circumvent those tactics by doing this:
Open to the idea that something you never imagined to be possible (or that seems you couldn’t bear if it were true) might, in fact, be true or partially true.
How exactly might we do that?
- Set aside what you think you know in order to learn what you may not know.
- Commit, for now, to entertaining the possibility of something you’re not familiar with, so that you can actually hear what is being said.
- The verification and final decisions about who and what you believe can come later. Remember, information in itself is not threatening. It may be genuinely uncomfortable to hold space for a possibility that calls your worldview into question (or that may turn out to be false). But holding that space does not cause harm and it can be the doorway to expanding perception.
- See also: Evaluating Individual Testimony
Evaluating Facts & Partial Truths
Here are the concluding statements from All About Truth. (Start there for the foundational and practical teachings that led to these conclusions.) When evaluating facts and partial truths, here are some considerations:
- Verify factual correctness — Separate facts and credible statements from opinions and judgments. Are the facts verifiable?
- Uncover the agenda — Investigate and evaluate the speaker’s motive and agenda. What outcome does the speaker desire? Is it constructive? Is it aligned with your values?
- Evaluate trustworthiness — Based on what you uncover, what is your overall sense of trustworthiness?
- Beware the power of the status quo — Be mindful of mainstream thinking and its impact on you.
- Don’t equate your beliefs with truth — Continuously investigate your belief systems. What is your inherent bias? Choose to set beliefs aside for now.
- Be open — Allow the possibility that something you never imagined to be possible (or that seems you couldn’t bear if it were true), might, in fact, be true or partially true.
- Develop discernment — Be aware of your limited perspective and ability to grow your discernment skills with mindfulness.
Authorities on Truth?
You might wonder, are science and research the ultimate authority on objective truth? Can journalists deliver objective truth? In other words, are there authorities or experts that we can rely on to deliver truth? Those are questions best answered for yourself, but the teachings presented in All About Truth offer a pretty convincing case that there is no such thing as a true authority on truth, because there are always multiple perspectives. However, when making decisions, you might be more likely to believe and act on information provided by those who:
- Are transparent about their motive and agenda.
- Have a motive and agenda that are aligned with your interests.
- Use facts and credible statements that offer knowledge and meaning that resonate for you.
7 Steps to Greater Discernment
Another way to look at the topic of discernment is to break it down into a series of “steps” or topics. The problem with breaking things down into lists like this is that it can appear as if a complex topic is being simplified into a useless meme. But that’s not the intention. Rather, the purpose is to give you multiples lenses so you can choose an angle that most serves you right now.
Select links for more in-depth material.
Step 1 Open your eyes
Until we wake up to how truth and lies actually show up, we can’t possibly know who to trust.
- Get familiar with how truth actually shows up. Learn more about partial truths.
- Instead of focusing on “unbiased” truth, seek clarity and meaning.
- To determine if someone is trustworthy, begin by uncovering their motive and agenda.
- Become more prepared to face difficult truths by engaging in healthy practices for processing difficult emotions and choosing proactive empowerment.
- Acknowledge the lies all around you.
Step 2: Seek true understanding
Indulging natural curiosity will guide us beyond the superficial into a deeper exploration of what is true and how things actually work.
- As you take in information, seek the type of knowledge and understanding that leads to wisdom.
- Note tendencies toward impulsive, novelty-seeking and consciously embark on the more mature quest for true understanding.
- Unless you investigate beliefs and agendas, you’re wasting your time.
- Remember that partial truths and mistakes can lead truth-tellers to be misguided or wrong.
- Build and question narratives; ask more and better questions.
Step 3: Know the enemy
It knows you.
- Overcome personal resistance to difficult truths.
- Learn about the impact of the The Art of War on modern society.
- Familiarize yourself with the Enemies of Truth.
- Awaken to the covert nature of manipulative behavior.
- Learn to recognize sociopathic behaviors, and know what you can do to protect yourself.
- Be clear about how NDAs are used by powerful people as a way to “buy silence” from those with less power.
Step 4: Turn inward
Ironically, to recognize truth requires turning inward. And we’re just pawns until we do.
- Become conscious of your belief systems and their incredible power.
- Face and heal your own traumas and difficult truths.
- Get a sense for some of the common hindrances to discerning truth: looking away, reasoning fallacies, and conditioned distrust.
Step 5: Sharpen your discernment skills
No more playing the fool.
- Be conscious about how you evaluate individual testimony and consider what to do when you identify inaccuracies or weaknesses.
- Be more mindful about evaluating the testimony of experts and authorities.
- Be clear about the issues related to the mainstream media (MSM).
- Know how to spot when numbers and statistics are being used to deceive or manipulate opinion.
- Take a fresh look at historical documents.
Step 6: Let go of old stories
Opening our mind opens the world, and reveals our strength.
- This may be the most important of all the strategies, but it’s usually not possible unless we do the other things.
- Entertain new paradigms
Step 7: Trust yourself
We are done ignoring inner knowing; we use it to our advantage.
- Understand the irreplaceable power of your inner guidance system and know how to connect to it.
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