We recently learned that our daughter needs to embrace a gluten free and dairy free lifestyle. Until now I would’ve been one of the last people to jump on this band wagon that seems to be so prevalent now a days. However, after seeing my daughter go through several months of pain and suffering and realizing that we had overlooked many symptoms before we started seeking medical and paramedical advice, my experience has changed my own skepticism. I have seen the need to change her diet validated by the evidence that has been presented. This journey of the sceptic into dietary changes has reminded me of some of the key things that I learned as a student.
When I think back to my university days a few key lessons jump out at me. One of those lessons was that we need to be very deliberate in our understanding and judgments because there’s often information out there that we don’t know. I think I learned very well not to ever assume when I was in university when doing research and drawing conclusions. Very quickly I learned that if I didn’t site my sources when making statements of fact I was quickly questioned and my writing lost its credibility. When that happened, I was just a lowly student with an idea that didn’t necessarily stack up against all of the ideas that my professors had catalogued over the years. I needed to make a conscious effort to find the proof for the idea I was arguing.
A second key lesson that I learned was that no matter what your position is on a particular idea or issue, there’s always going to be someone with an education and a research grant who will substantiate your ideas– and especially more so now that we live in this intensely digitalization world. So I learned to constantly question not just whether I was arguing well but was I arguing truth: “What is the root of this truth, this idea that I am espousing? Where does my reasoning find a firm foundation?”
Both of these ideas, of substantiating my claims and using right reasoning, are ones that Charlotte Mason addressed directly nearly 100 years ago and I really appreciate her words when she speaks about the way of the will and the way of reason.
“There are two guides to moral and intellectual self-management to offer to children, which we may call ‘the way of the will’ and ‘the way of the reason.’
The way of the will: Children should be taught, (a) to distinguish between ‘I want’ and ‘I will.’ (b) That the way to will effectively is to turn our thoughts from that which we desire but do not will. (c) That the best way to turn our thoughts is to think of or do some quite different thing, entertaining or interesting. (d) That after a little rest in this way, the will returns to its work with new vigour….
The way of reason: We teach children, too, not to ‘lean (too confidently) to their own understanding’; because the function of reason is to give logical demonstration (a) of mathematical truth, (b) of an initial idea, accepted by the will. In the former case, reason is, practically, an infallible guide, but in the latter, it is not always a safe one; for, whether that idea be right or wrong, reason will confirm it by irrefragable proofs.
In other words while me must constantly exert an effort to do and think rightly, we must also recognize that our ability to reason is limited by our own understanding and so we can, of our own volition, defend and convince ourselves of ideas that are logically flawed.
So, there is a need, both intellectually and spiritually, to find a firm foundation. I love it that she turns us back to our Creator for this reasoning: Proverbs 3:5,6 says “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV84).
The way to guard against leaning to confidently on our own understanding: trust in the LORD with all our hearts!
As I stumble through this life, there are many times when I will question the ideas that are presented to me and even worse, there will be many times that I embrace, without even realizing it, ideas that are flawed. My best defense will always be to look to God for truth and knowledge on this crazy journey. All the rest will fall into line.
Wishing you a peaceful day as you lean on the author of truth.