I used to teach people about Public Relations. I would teach that we have “media” because they “mediate” truth. These days, while that might be the origin of the word, the reality of the function is not so simple.
Yesterday I watched one of my favourite journalists, Chuck Todd, reach a point where he declared that he no longer had the words, quoting a sports commentator who once declared “I can’t believe what my eyes are seeing.”
It seems as though the biggest question facing us over the next decade will be “what is real?”
I wonder if part of the problem is that over the last 40 years we have been lulled into a dependence on media. We have allowed them to mediate, and therefore shape our reality.
In my Public Relations classes, I would teach that “those who know how to use the media have disproportionate power.” I don’t think anyone would doubt that Donald Trump knows how to use the media.
I don’t think that Trump is the problem. I think the problem is that we have all become lazy. We have allowed ourselves to have our understanding shaped by others, rather than doing the hard work of seeking truth ourselves.
I was struck this morning by this passage from Proverbs:
Get wisdom, get understanding;
do not forget my words or turn away from them.
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
love her, and she will watch over you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding
What hit me most about the passage was the commands “Get wisdom” and “get understanding.” The assumption is that wisdom and understanding are things that are available to everyone, but not without effort.
Truth is going missing because we haven’t been making the effort.
According to Solomon in the rest of chapter 4, the effort that is required by us to obtain wisdom is:
- Listen to those who have been around longer than us: Respect the voices of wisdom and not celebrity.
- Avoid people who are self interested: Rather than celebrate people who know how to manipulate others for their own benefit… avoid them at all costs.
- Don’t do what you feel like, do what is right: Too many of us have our behaviour determined by our fears, pain or sadness. We need to choose what is right, not what makes us feel better.
- Guard what you let into your heart: There are value systems behind every television show, behind every tweet, behind every workplace. If we just consume what we are fed, those value systems become our value systems very quickly.
- Be very careful about what you say: Facebook, Twitter, Radio and Television is full of people saying lots and lots but most of it is at best useless and at worst damaging. The biblical principle is to be very careful before you open your mouth.
- Don’t quickly deviate from the path that you are on: The biblical picture of immaturity is someone who is tossed around by life circumstances like a cork on a wave (Eph 4). It takes courage to hold your course when circumstance and other people don’t agree.
Each one of these things is a conscious choice. Not one of these things will happen accidentally. These conscious choices though will not only shape how you know what reality is, they will shape who you are.
As you make these choices you will grow as a person, and those around you will gradually notice that when you speak you are someone who is worth listening to.
We long for wise leaders, however the real challenge for each one of us is to do the work to “get wisdom” and “get understanding” ourselves.
Do you have the courage to face the parts of your life where you have been avoiding the choices that lead to wisdom?