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Lessons from a Jedi: What is Truth?

I remember watching the original Star Wars movies in the theaters!  It was so exciting back then in the late 1970s and early 1980s!  We could not wait for the next movie and I was totally a fan!  I found myself wanting to be like the great Jedi!  I have always wanted to be on the good side and often wished for a mentor like Obi-Wan Kenobi!  What child did not hope for a Jedi Master to find them, see potential in them, and train them to become a hero?

I do recall, however, struggling with the scenes where Luke Skywalker finds out that Darth Vader did not actually kill his father, but was his father.  That “revelation” was not as hard for me as was the conversation he had with Obi-Wan about what he had been told in the past.  When he laments the news and says to Obi-Wan, “But you told me Darth Vader killed my father,” Obi-Wan explained that a lot of the truths we believe and hold depend on our point of view.  Then, he described his point of view or thinking behind it.

Probably because I was too young at the time, I did not grasp what Obi-Wan was trying to say.  How does point of view matter?  I thought truth was truth.  I could not comprehend what he was trying to say.  To me, Obi-Wan had been caught in a lie.  Simply put, he lied.  Luke was calling him out and he was making excuses.  It would not be until many years later that I understood the concept of point of view. It makes a significant difference!  Granted, I know for sure there are truths that do not alter because of point of view.  I am not talking about universal laws or gospel truths here.  I am talking about what you and I believe about relationships, people, events, and more.

Recently, I had the privilege of being a guest on a podcast with Mark Reid and Zen Sammich. (November 4, 2021 Episode).  It was a great opportunity to talk about my second book, Driving Lessons for Life 2: On the Road Again to Better Living, Loving, and Leading.  While we were talking about my books and my driving lessons for life concept, Mark shared his own experience that helped me to even better see the impact of point of view on what is true.

Mark said he was on the road and came to the red light.  He was preparing to turn right and the light turned green, so he proceeded.  However, as he came around the corner, a woman was walking right into the intersection.  Mark was startled at her bravado in venturing out into the street when clearly he had the green light and that was his signal to go.  Then, he was shocked at her incredible outrage at having to jump back as he came around the corner.  What was her deal with being so angry and upset?  Clearly, she can see that he had the green light.  It was obvious she was in the wrong and he was in the right.  So, why so mad?

Then, Mark looked back and saw a different angle on the lights.  From this new vantage point, he could see that she clearly had a green light as well.  From this perspective or where she was standing, she appeared to have the green light and it was her right of way to be there in the intersection.  When he saw things from her side of the street and the angle from which she viewed things, it made sense to him that she would be upset.  To her, he was in the wrong and she was in the right.  Both Mark and this pedestrian felt that what they saw was true and right and from their point of view, it was.

So, then what is truth in situations like this?  I am not sure that my friend Mark can even explain what happened when both people had green lights.  I just recall him sharing this experience and how it affected him in seeing truth and how, in many human experiences and interactions, it can be highly affected by point of view.  Again, we are not talking about universal truth, but the truth of what happens in human interactions.  Point of view really does matter here!

When it comes to human interactions and experiences, what you can see and not see makes all the difference.

How quick we are to first assume that our way of seeing things is true.  We naturally see the green light in front of us and are sure this means we are in the right and get to go forward.  And we are incensed and irritated when other people are so clearly in the wrong.  We do this with our opinions on conversations, behavior, interactions, and more.  I try to teach people this when I work with them in my professional capacities as counselor, consultant, and coach.  We naturally assume our point of view is correct and often are willing to fight others for it!  This can be so problematic and is the source of many problems in relationships.  Point of view, when not understood, can be the source of many fights, conflicts, disagreements, and misunderstandings.  Point of view matters.

This problem of point of view is also dangerous in observing other people’s behaviors.  To be sure, we humans are pretty myopic when it comes to what we can see and deduce about other people, their actions, and the motives behind their interactions.  We think we see it all.  We think we know what is really going on.

We think we are good judges of what is really true, what really happened, and so on.  This causes all kinds of judgements, anger, contention, unfairness, and so much more.  When we think our way of seeing others is the correct way, we mess up.  What we really understand and see and know is so limited, we are for sure to get it wrong.

I once recall reading a study on relationships that said up to 90% of conflicts in relationships were unresolvable.  I remember being discouraged about that statistic and wondered what hope I had in helping people to improve their relationships.  I remember being concerned about my ability to help people and wondered if I should give up this part of my work.  I actually had the thought “Well, then what is the point of what I am doing?”  Why, when most of the challenges I see people for are connected to relationships, would I work so hard at something with only maybe a 10% chance of success?  It seemed futile to me.

Fortunately, I continued to learn more and what this statistic meant.  The authors of the study discussed the problem of perspective and then said that this was the reason behind this statistic.  People were not actually fighting about actual issues.  Most of the conflicts people had were because of perspective or point of view.  They had a difference or conflict of what they thought was truth, but was really a matter of point of view.  I then thought of the phrase I often say to people, “It’s never about what it is about.”  Most of the conflicts we have in life are issues of point of view.

We get this on the joking or fun and superficial level.  I often see memes depicting which way the toilet paper roll should be placed when you put it in the holder.  I often hear jokes about where is the right place to squeeze the toothpaste tube.  There is really no end to examples of point of view really being the issue.  Point of view affects this kind of truth and the perception of it.  If we are not careful, we can really mess things up assuming our way of seeing things is the right way, the best way, and the only way.  Many a heartbreak has been caused by this problem of perspective.  If we can learn to get it right, we can be better in all of our relationships.

One of the best things I have learned on this topic has been this truth:  In relationships, there are problems to solve and problems to manage.  Problems to solve go away.  You talk about it, you come up with an idea, you implement it and the problem goes away.  In our relationships and in our life, we love problems to solve.  It feels good to get it done, check it off, and have it be gone.  We want every problem to be a problem to solve.  It just feels better.  It is also over more quickly!

Problems to manage are those pesky problems that come up in relationships.  They are often defined as recurring, chronic, or repetitive.  Married couples will talk about having the same fight over and over again.  Often these conflicts are over the same topic.  This happens in work relationships, family relationships, and really any interactions involving other people over time.  Often, the conflict escalates because one or both think we had a problem to solve and we solved it the last time we talked about it.  Someone is sure to be angry and say things like “We already talked about this!” and complain “Why do you keep bringing up the same things over and over again?”  Some people feel like their spouse is unforgiving, not listening, critical, relentless, and hopelessly broken or cruel.  This can be deadly to work and family relationships.

Problems to manage are about perspective.  They are not solvable because they are coming from the point of view of each of the parties.  The only way to work through problems of perspective is to learn to see each others’ point of view and appreciate it, accept it, and work with it.  Mark can scream forever that he had a green light and so he was in the right!  He can honk his horn, yell every manner of expletive he can imagine, and demand she get out of his way!  However, she could also pound on the hood of his car, scream all manner of obscenities, and demand that he apologize, beg for forgiveness, and admit that he is a terrible driver.  Both can continue forever insisting that they are in the right and the other is clearly in the wrong.

However, the better way, is to do what Mark did.  Take another look from another angle.  Slow down and see what they are seeing.  Really and sincerely try to take on their point of view.  Some have said you have done this when you can explain their view better than they can.  Really dig deep and look hard to understand what they have going on and are experiencing and what they see.  This approach takes more patience and time.  It often is accompanied by stops and starts as you seek to understand and really get the other’s side.  It can take time and repeated conversations to get to this point.

So, let’s get some action steps in place here.  Maybe a couple of suggested takeaways can help:

  • First, there are universal laws and gospel truths that truly do not change.
  • Second, in human interaction, there will always be the problem of point of view or perspective.
  • Third, please remember that in human relationships there are problems to solve and problems to manage.
  • Finally, if you find yourself stuck in the intersection of conflict with another person (especially any conflict that is repeating), stop and consider their perspective or point of view.  Try to see what you do not see and understand what you do not understand.

It took a Jedi, Mark Reid, and a lot of life experience to learn this lesson I am passing on to you right now.  To be honest, I am still struggling to live it.  It comes up so often.  It shows up in all aspects of my human experience.  It hurts and it causes hurt when we insist that we know what is right and true about others and our interactions and experiences with them.  It hurts when spouses, children, friends, neighbors, associates,, business partners, and all of us jump to conclusions, assume we know “the truth,” and demand that our way is the right way of seeing things.  We all need to get better at looking at how our personal point of view may feel and seem true to us, but it is surely not to someone else.

When it comes to human relationships, we rarely have the full and complete story.  So, let’s be a little less quick to jump to the position that we are right and others are wrong. 

Let’s slow down and listen and learn.  Let’s really get to know the people we love, live with, and work with.  Let’s get super curious about how they see the world, how they see the things they do, and what makes them tick.  This can be the most exciting adventure of all.

For Luke Skywalker, that conversation where he learned a different point of view about his father and what happened there, changed everything.  In the end, the story becomes one of redemption and someone moving from seeing someone to destroy to seeing someone to save.  Our relationships can have that same heroic and feel-good outcome too!  When we really take the time to consider point of view, we find out that truth in human relationships is really much more exciting than we first thought it to be.

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Jim R. Jacobs
Jim R. Jacobshttp://www.drivinglessonsforlife.com/
Jim R Jacobs is a brave creator who strives to do mighty things! Jim is a Certified Daring Way Facilitator helping others to live more brave and authentic lives! He is the author of Driving Lessons For Life: Thoughts on Navigating Your Road to Personal Growth. Jim speaks professionally, and coaches others to success and living with integrity. He is a counselor, educator, innovator, father, and friend. Please check out Jim R. Jacobs and Driving Lessons For Life and find Jim on social media! Let's connect and dare mighty things!

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CONVERSATIONS

  1. Terrific insight here, Jim. And, not just saying that because you used my experience as an example to illustrate how truth often depends on point of view. I am honored, by the way. My encounter with that incensed pedestrian aside, it was a nice reminder for me to keep perspective in mind when considering the viewpoints of others. The Force is strong with you, Jim.

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