“If a man will kick a fact out of the window, when he comes back he finds it again in the chimney corner” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).
REALITY IS A TOUGH OPPONENT. In the long run, it can’t be defeated, and even in the short run, we find that factualness is hard to suppress. Truth simply has a strength that falsehood can’t match. When misinformation has failed and disappeared, facts are still there to be dealt with. If truth is stranger than fiction, it is also stronger.
Unfortunately, a good many of us spend a great deal of time fighting against factualness. We run away from the facts. We spin them and selectively present them in ways that suit our purposes. We may even try to refute them or deny them. But when we are done, the facts are still the facts. They stubbornly refuse to go away.
One of the great milestones in life is the point at which we learn to be content with the facts. Yes, an acceptance of inconvenient facts requires humility, and it may also require some hard changes: apologies, adjustments, repentance, sacrifices, and a number of other courageous things. But however difficult these may be, what a relief it is not to be fighting that losing battle anymore: the one against what is real. “Let us take things as we find them. Let us not attempt to distort them into what they are not. We cannot make facts. All our wishing cannot change them. We must use them” (John Henry Newman).
But as important as it is, factualness is not enough. “Facts mean nothing unless they are rightly understood, rightly related, and rightly interpreted” (R. L. Long). Beyond knowing what is real, we use our factual information in constructive ways. And in communicating the facts, we must learn the importance of kindness and grace.
A commitment to factualness is not an option; it is a duty. In our relationships with others, and even in our own thinking, we are honor-bound to get the facts. No matter what situation we face, nothing less than the facts will do. Checking and double-checking to validate what we’ve heard is hard work, and many will not take the time to do it. But factualness is a part of truthfulness. It is a part of honesty. People of integrity will not settle for less than what is true.
“Every man has a right to be wrong in his opinions. But no man has a right to be wrong in his facts” (Bernard Baruch).