It seems discussing objective truth can come across as arrogant, insensitive or naive. Our culture is accustomed to having personalized attitudes, opinions, thoughts and actions as definitive. Most indicative of this penchant for subjective perspectives is the public way we argue our points with one another. Rather than being open to what others have to say, we can easily feel offended when others passionately question us or disagree with our views.
Adding to this predicament is the fact that we walk away from hearing what others have to say, dismissing insights as irrelevant or demonizing persons and worldviews in the process. More than before, our social environments and interactions are fraught with toxic rhetoric and polarizing actions. And, while there is validity to holding our own individual experiences, what is often missing in our exchanges is the larger self-transcending picture that needs to inform us as well.
Part of the impartiality needed is a renewed appreciation for and commitment to the common good in our lives. It is this openness to shared goods that can lead us to see and receive the truth not just in terms of its intellectual dimension, but also in its existential manifestation. In other words, more than pure logical or self-serving arguments to be won, reception of the truth implies being a person of integrity, where our words are substantiated by actions with and for others.
In fact, our faith teaches us that our words cannot be empty of good works and community: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, to profess faith without showing works? Such faith has no power to save you. … So it is for faith without deeds: it is totally dead” (James 2:14; 17). What matters most for our personal integrity is to live the truth in its fullness, to make it active and real in our daily affairs and interactions with one another, especially in our care for the most vulnerable. “If a brother or sister is in need of clothes or food and one of you says, ‘May things go well for you; be warm and satisfied,’ without attending to their material needs, what good is that?” (James 2:15).
Our vocation to live the truth in its integrity — in word and deed — becomes possible for us when we draw closer to the light of Christ. It is in Christ and His Spirit that we find the way forward: “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. … For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds might be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God” (John 3:17; 20-21).
The objectivity and credibility our personal convictions cannot be devoid of the grace in Christ. Indeed, our receptiveness to one another finds its foundation in our openness to the truth in the Spirit. It is by our own fidelity to the Word of God that our words and actions find their full meaning and impact. For us, openness and reception to the definitive truth in the person of Jesus Christ finds fruitful cultivation in the life of prayer. Each Sunday, we gather around a common table, no longer just as individuals but as a community with shared needs, perspectives and goods. Our integrity, truly, rests in the living Lord (Acts 17:28).
Javier Orozco is the executive director of human dignity and intercultural affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.