“She’s a liberal! That’s why she says those things!”, the man exclaimed on the cable news network. “They all have their head in the sand because they don’t want to hear the truth”, was the follow-up. As I watched and heard this banter my mind went to the word chosen to describe this person. She was labeled a liberal. We’ve been trained how to respond to that word through years of conditioning. If ours is a conservative background our defense mechanism kicks in and we already discount any logical points raised in the discussion by this person. If we’ve been indoctrinated with a liberal education we tend to take what this liberal person says without question. Growing up in a household with a republican mother and a democratic father I’ve been exposed to both. Are there always two sides to everything? Or could there be many ways to see things? The news commentator said this liberal didn’t want to hear the truth. Politicians, Legal professionals, Educators and Religious speakers love that word. But whose truth are we talking about? I decided to get some literal definitions of these words and see if I can make some sense out of this.

Let’s look at the word liberal in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary.

  1. Of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts
  2. Marked by generosity; given or provided in a generous, open-handed way
  3. Lacking moral restraint obsolete
  4. Not literal or strict.
  5. Broad-minded; especially: not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms.
  6. Of, favoring, or based upon the principles of liberalism; Capitalized: of or constituting a political party advocating or associated with the principles of political liberalism.

Here’s Merriam-Webster’s definition of truth.

  1. Sincerity in action or character,
  2. The state of being the case, the body of real things, events and facts, a transcendent fundamental of spiritual reality, a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true, the body of true statements and propositions,
  3. The property of being in accord with fact or reality, fidelity to an original or to a standard,
  4. In accordance with fact.

As I suspected these two words have many different meanings. And depending who’s saying them, where they are said, and how they are uttered can make all the difference. Human beings have the gift of speech. Words can be beautiful and be uplifting and loving avenues that lead to positive outcomes. But they can also be hurtful, disconcerting, evil and deceiving. We tend to use words to label others. We put people into a category using words that are aligned with our belief system. A belief system that automatically puts us at odds with anything that questions those beliefs. I’m labeled a compassionate, loving man by some, and others an unrealistic dreamer who doesn’t live in the real world. When people ask me questions about what I think or feel it takes me a long time to answer. I don’t like labeling myself because as soon as I say a word, people automatically have a opinion based on their truth. I do it too. And I don’t like the fact that my brain categorizes in that way. So I’ve challenged myself to stop labeling people. I’m going to choose my words carefully. If I know a person I’m speaking too has a different belief system from me, I will simply say, “you may not want to hear what I think on that matter.” If they press me, I will say, “I will tell you, but realize I am not attacking you in any way. It’s okay that we don’t see eye to eye on all things.” What I will not do is label myself by a politcal party or religious affiliation.

When asked if I am proud to be an American I quote my mother when she used to say, “pride commeth before the fall.” It’s a genuine human emotion to feel a sense of accomplishment or to feel good about people who achieve great things. But if that feeling separates us from other human beings than I say it isn’t good. Yes, I was born and reside in America so therefore I am an American. But being an American doesn’t make me any better than any other human being with a different nationality.

Even now I’m sure if one of you is reading this you already have an opinion about my beliefs and have, in your own way, labeled me. I understand because our minds always try to make sense out of things that are either different than us or question our belief system. But I truly feel the problems in the world today are human problems. Too long we’ve used words to categorize people, who in many ways are just like us. But because they don’t talk like us, look like us, behave like us, believe like us and act like us we discount them. And that’s just not a nice thing to do.

As a baby we are open to all. In in a few short years we are taught what is good and what is bad. As we get older we are taught who to listen to and who not to listen too. And most times, but not always, we carry those rules into adulthood. And because of that, we must be careful what words we use and what labels we apply to people. Because like us, other people have a belief system too.

Alright, back to our liberal who doesn’t know the truth in the beginning of this short essay. She was indoctrinated with a belief system and it is her choice to feels. The same goes for the news anchor who feels a different way. The truth that is spoken is also relative. And it is obvious that both of their truths are different. So when this impasse is reached we must seek out facts. Things the are indisputable. Are their such things?

Perhaps it’s a good idea for all human beings to install a fact checker on ourselves. When I did it to myself I quickly found out that many of my beliefs were just that; beliefs. They weren’t based on indisputable fact but rather years of conditioning. That doesn’t mean they are false because they are very true to me but what is fact?

I am human. I am male. I am flawed. I love. These facts can be proven by scientific fact or by my actions. As far as my beliefs go…well, I’ll gladly share those beliefs with you if asked.