There is a comfort in knowing the truth. Let’s start with a simple example. Knowing the truth about your car is comforting. If you didn’t know how to turn it on, drive it, or how to pump the gas, this would be stressful.
Knowing truth is a matter of mastery. If we don’t know how to master our car, kitchen, or frig, we will experience frustration and confusion. However, this same principle also pertains to other areas of our lives. We make thousands of moral decisions daily. They even govern how we speak to our friend, mate, or teacher.
In fact, almost everything we say has a moral dimension. When your husband advises you to start cooking dinner, you can respond in many different ways:
- Yes, dear.
- What is it you would like to eat?
- Why is this always my responsibility?
- You shouldn’t expect anything from me. You aren’t keeping up your responsibilities to me.
- You are always thinking about yourself!
- What will you do for me?
There are many possible responses, and they involve many different considerations, like the nature of the relationship and the way we conceive of it, the way the day has gone, and our values.
Some values yield good results; others do not. For example, if getting our needs met is our first consideration, conflict is inevitable. Whenever receiving takes precedence over giving, there will result a tug-of-war between our opposing demands.
This observation raises an important question:
- Are there moral and relational truths to govern our lives as there are truths about my car? If I have to pump the gas into my car at the right orifice, is there also a right way to treat my friend or partner? Also, as there is a joy and comfort in my mastery over the physical objects of my life, is there also a moral mastery that brings joy and comfort?
If there is such a mastery that comes from knowing and understanding, then acquiring and using such knowledge should also be a delight. All the major religions would probably be in agreement. In fact, this is the message of the Bible:
- Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)
Some study their auto manual so that they can understand the use and maintenance of their car. How much more important to understand the use and care of our lives! Therefore, Scripture consistently encourages us to seek wisdom:
- How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!... Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD. The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction. Understanding is a fountain of life to those who have it, but folly brings punishment to fools. A wise man's heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction. (Proverbs 16:16-23)
- A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom. (Proverbs 10:23)
Wisdom is a delight. It opens our eyes to the fullness of life, where we can see how everything it interrelated. It is like the joy of completing a puzzle or even a house, but the joy of wisdom is even more profound. Wisdom is also a light, enabling us to navigate this hazardous life.
However, not many are willing to pay the price for it. Augustine of Hippo claimed that although the happiness of truth is available to all, we would rather be right than wise:
- True happiness is to rejoice in the truth, for to rejoice in the truth is to rejoice in you, O God, who are the truth… Man’s love of truth is such that when he loves something which is not the truth, he pretends to himself that what he loves is the truth, and because he hates to be proved wrong, he will not allow himself to be convinced that he is deceiving himself. So he hates the real truth for the sake of what he takes to his heart in its place. (Augustine’s Confessions, Book 10:23)
For many, darkness is more comfortable than knowing the truth, even peace of mind.