While I was writing these blogs, a public figure got into hot water over some gaffes made during a speech. One of those gaffes was a line about “choosing truth over facts”. Of course, that got lots of reaction from everybody everywhere. People laughed ... how can you choose between two things that are the same thing?
It stopped me cold in my tracks when I heard it. I got chills listening and watching the reactions. I doubt that even the speaker realized the incredible gravity of that statement. Certainly no one else did, judging from the reactions. Because that statement is correct!
Truth and facts are not the same thing!
In many situations – and maybe in most situations – truth and facts will align and agree.
Other times, they will not.
When they don’t align and don’t agree, truth always supersedes facts.
Problems arise when we treat them like they are the same thing and use the words interchangeably. Truth will always be a fact. But facts aren’t always truth. Truth is objective and absolute. Facts are subjective and open to interpretation. In our society many people talk about “my truth” and “your truth”. They are using the wrong word. The correct version would be “my facts” and “your facts”.
• A flat earther and an astrophysicist see the same facts, and come to entirely different conclusions.
• Someone who “wants to believe” can see objects in the sky and experience the silence of authorities on the matter, connect those two facts, and jump to all kinds of conclusions that probably are nowhere in the vicinity of the truth.
Facts and interpretations of facts are subjective. They should point us to truth. But they need to be tested and proved. Facts give you reasons and excuses. Facts are circumstantial. Facts can be true, but sometimes only appear true.
Truth is absolute, universal, and eternal. Truth shows you reality. Sometimes, hard, cold reality.
When we’re writing and drawing stories for our children, when we’re developing characters, let’s keep these things in mind. I realize that picture books aren’t so complex as adult books. But they are actually more important that adult books, because our target audience is at that stage in life when they are learning how to think ... how to observe the facts, interpret the facts, come to a logical conclusion, and then how to challenge that conclusion to test it. So when they are adults, they are equipped to think properly.
Because while we enjoy teasing the flat earthers and the sky watchers, there are more serious examples of “my facts” and “your facts”:
• Two siblings can be abused by their parents. One grows up to abuse their own children. One does not.
• Two children are raised in poverty. One grows up and comes out of that environment. One does not.
• Two children get bullied at school ... well, you get the idea ...
This is a big responsibility, and I frankly don’t even know how to tell you how to approach it. The best I’ve come up with for myself, is simply to love and pursue Truth in my own life. And ask for His guidance. And seek His wisdom. And pray that will flow into and through my work.
Because many years ago, a carpenter-turned-preacher stood on a hill and laid it all out ...
The world is a tragic, broken mess. People – including us – will mistreat each other, lie, cheat, steal, and justify it all because of the facts: we hurt, we suffer, we cry, so we retaliate and manipulate. That’s the world’s answer. Worldly truth is actually a lie. A counterfeit of the real thing.
Because retaliation and manipulation will only keep the hurt going. The only way to heal is with God’s real Truth: forgiveness and love, returning good for evil, allowing Him to remove the log from our own eye, so we can see clearly to help remove the splinter from another’s eye.
It doesn’t make sense to our worldly minds, and we will make mistakes. But that’s why we need His help!
As creators of children’s literature, we have a wonderful privilege and a grave responsibility to always let the Truth shine through our work. Whether it’s educational material or just fun, made-up stories. Let’s stir their minds and their hearts. Let’s teach them how to dream, how to think rationally and love lavishly, and how to respond when their facts crash into Truth and reality.
And perhaps I’m just a bit too serious in my thinking ... I’m just drawing pictures, after all.
But then I go on the internet and discover what’s out there waiting for our kids ...
No! We can never take our work too seriously!