We don’t form our positions on important issues independently. We don’t come to our opinions in a vacuum.
We just don’t.
Oh, we can determine our favorite food or who we think is the best lead guitar player of all-time or even our take on the top movie of the year. Those are arrived at subjectively and, in the big picture, aren’t really all that important. Sorry.
I’m talking about something altogether different.
Take politics. You don’t just sit in your recliner and manufacture your opinions on issues like immigration reform or affordable health care or the national budget. If you’re smart, you research. You study. You listen. You fact check. But to do that, you have to rely on sources of input to inform you and educate you.
And there’s the struggle. You have to determine which source of information is worthy of your trust. Which news channel? Which talking head? Which politician? Which blogger? Which social scientist? Which website? Which publications? Which family member?
Whose “truth” is more reliable? Whose opinion do you give the most weight?
Take matters of health care. You don’t just daydream yourself into opinions on vaccinations. On alternative medicines. On weight loss plans. On childbirth alternatives. On heart care. On physician and hospital choices. If you’re smart, you research. Just like you should on politics.
And at some point, you may say “no” to conventional methods and traditional approaches to medicine. And you will do that because you have chosen a source of truth to trust, over and above others. You may choose a friend or family member’s opinion over a medical doctor…or an internet source over a face-to-face professional consultation.
No matter what, you have allowed yourself to be influenced by someone or something.
Or take matters of spirituality and theology. You don’t simply develop your personal belief system by locking yourself in a closet and reading the Bible. Or at least you shouldn’t. The Bible is a complex piece of literature that demands the best of scholarship to understand. And there are hundreds and hundreds of years of interpretation at our fingertips.
Which books are you reading? Which teachers are you listening to? Which commentaries carry more weight? Whose interpretations do you deem more “right”? Whose opinions are shaping what you believe?
In life, it’s not a matter of whether or not you will be influenced. It is a matter of who you are letting influence you. Who are you giving access to your decision-making process? Who are you allowing to define “truth” for you?
I’m pretty convinced our research of sources is just as important as our research of the information. The source of “truth” is as important as the truth itself.