Absolutes are Dangerous

Absolutes are absolutely dangerous . . . “ James Tiptree Jr.

Thinking in terms of a truth, the truth and only one truth is often a recipe for disaster – especially when it comes to our relationships. Have you noticed that most of the time what is behind our discord with others is believing that there is a truth – an absolute way of doing or seeing something? The problem with that kind of thinking is that it generally leaves us closed off or narrows our world to people who are just like us. We become intolerant of other viewpoints and even find them unsettling. The reason we root ourselves deeply in our absolutes is that often our identities are tied to them. If our way of seeing the world isn’t right, what does that mean about who we are and how we’ve lived? It’s very threatening to our ego to think that another viewpoint might be equally as valid. Or if not equally valid to us, it is for the person who holds that viewpoint. Absolutes are dangerous because they can limit our potential. Whenever we hold an absolute, it means possibility has no chance to plant its seed and grow. Think of any relationship or friendship that may have crumbled in your past. Was there a middle ground that was unreachable because of some absolute? Many of us can look at society today and see the trouble with absolutes: a divided nation, trouble in our cities and anger everywhere. But, they’re likely equally present within our own home. If we can begin to see that our own absolutes don’t have to be so rigid. That perhaps they’re simply a compass by which we choose to live by, other’s perspectives and positions won’t feel so threatening. And if we can begin to see them differently in our own home, imagine the impact we might have on the world outside.

Weekly Path to Peace: Release your absolutes.

  • Where do you hold absolutes? What opinions do you stand firm on with your family, children, spouse or friends? Begin each and finish each day this week by recognizing what absolutes you personally hold. How have they been impacting your relationships? Spend some time reflecting and writing down what you discover.
  • Release your absolutes. Start slowly. Pick one absolute that has caused you the most trouble in a relationship. That relationship can be your personal one, one with your children or even a good friend. Ask yourself how might your conversation with that person look different if you didn’t have to hold on to your absolute? Would you be able to listen better? Make room for other options? Notice what happens when you release your absolute.

As you begin this week, rate your level of happiness, self-esteem and self-confidence on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being not satisfied and 10 being very satisfied. Notice where you are Sunday evening after you do this week’s peace practice to see if there is a change.