We can be really certain about things, and really wrong – all at the same time. Why?
You probably see this in business, maybe at home, sometimes in your own thinking, certainly in politics, and all over the media – people are “certain” about things. But when you track the story, follow the conversation, or wait it out a bit, you often find that what they were so certain about was simply wrong. It wasn’t grounded in the truth, it wasn’t thought though, it didn’t have the permanence they believed. They were wrong.
I’ve had some people be insistent about things, about how I should live and decisions I should make and I bet you have that happen sometimes too. But a person’s insistence isn’t an argument. Because “I’m certain” isn’t an enduring reason. It doesn’t point to the truth.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably found yourself being pushy about an idea, or really believing in something, and also found yourself to be wrong. That sucks. I’ve had two loves in my life, real ones I mean, and each time I knew it would last forever and could end only with death, but each time it ended, and I wasn’t dead and neither were they. I was certain, but I was wrong – or at least not accurate.
It worries me. It worries me when people push an idea using certainty, rather than good logic, or good thinking, or at least come at it as an experiment. It worries me more when that person is me, and it’s my own thinking about my own life. And I’m sure. And I’m wrong.
This post isn’t because I think I’ve fucked something up recently (although I’ve definitely botched my fair share of things through the years), but it’s because of all the small ways that we’re certain about things that just aren’t quite right. The cumulation of them can be annoying at best, and devastating at the boundary.
It’s hard to say how to avoid this entirely, but there is a fundamental that can help. It’s this: Certainty is a feeling, and feelings are transient. The truth, I mean the real truth (not “your truth” and “my truth”) is not always easy to approach, and not always friendly, but it is unyielding and always finds its way.
Don’t defend your certainty, pursue the truth.