When opposite truths collide

Image by Jonny Lindner from Pixabay

I love good quotes of all kinds (especially those that offer motivation and encouragement to be my best self), and social media exposes me to more of those than I’d ever see otherwise. The sheer abundance of them makes it so much easier to see how often they disagree with one another.

These disagreements range from slight differences in emphasis to those that seem to be saying opposite ideas in every way. It’s fascinating to me how often I see those opposites and realize that they are both true at least in some contexts.

That reality highlights one of the most important things to remember whenever engaging with one of these quotes: each and every one is something said within a certain context and is therefore limited to commenting only on that context. It may or may not fit any other context.

Of course, by the time we encounter these quotes on social media, all of the context of the original comment has disappeared. This makes it seem as if it is an absolute truth for all situations and all people at all times, and that can do more harm than good.

Let me give you an example.

Booker T. Washington said, “Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.” There’s also the common aphorism that says, “The early bird gets the worm.”

Quotes like that motivate me to keep working hard in my business, doing my best to show up early, do the challenging and uncomfortable tasks, and keep pushing hard no matter how tired I am.

On the other hand, there’s also the common aphorism that says, “Good things come to those that wait.”

That quote is a helpful encouragement at times when I’ve done all that it is possible for me to do and I need to have patience to allow other factors to play out so I know what to do next.

Imagine what would happen, though, if I used those in the opposite contexts.

If I formed a general habit of just waiting and expecting success to come from that, A Kintsugi Life (as a business) would never have grown to where it is today. I’d never push myself. I wouldn’t put in the long hours necessary to get things done. I would just sit back and relax. That would not be at all helpful (even though it would sure feel plenty inspirational!).

Likewise, if I applied the first set of quotes to those times where patience is required, I’d work myself into a frazzle when there’s nothing useful that I could accomplish. I’d expect instant results all the time (and that seldom happens).

For another example of where some wisdom fits some situations better than others, consider the advice we could find about how we relate to other people’s needs.

Some wisdom would encourage us to put other’s needs before our own, to give in sacrificial ways, and to love and care for others the way wish people to do for us.

Other wisdom emphasizes the need for personal boundaries, to know when to say no, and to make sure we take care of ourselves so that we don’t burn out in our giving to others.

There have been times in my life when I’ve been in situations or relationships where I gave too much. I made myself into a doormat and trying to shape myself into someone I wasn’t in order to fit someone else’s demands.

Listening to the first set of advice during a time that like would not have been helpful at all. I really needed the second set of advice to bring me back into a balanced place where I took care of myself along with caring for others.

In other situations or relationships, I have been guilty of being to stingy with my time and energy. I got so busy protecting myself that I lost sight of the needs of those I was in relationship with.

Listening to the second set of advice during a time like that would have been harmful. I needed the first set of advice to push me to give more than I was giving and to loosen my boundaries enough to allow others in.

The same is true for the wisdom in the image of kintsugi.

There is so much hope and encouragement available in this image that we can heal from life’s broken places with extra beauty in the form of the hard won treasures we gain from the experience, but depending on how and when the image is applied, it can also feel like a push to move on too fast from a loss.

When the jagged edges of life’s broken places are fresh, pressure to find a treasure in that place is not helpful. There is no treasure there yet. That’s the point where someone needs to be allowed to grieve their loss and experience all of the complex emotions that grieve and loss can create.

The treasure we find comes later as a part of the healing process, and that takes time. The image can still inspire hope of future good, but only when it’s seen without any pressure to be there before it’s time.

In the midst of the broken places and the challenges of healing, the image of the kintsugi process itself—including the reactivity the urushi lacquer can cause—might be more of a comfort than the final repaired product because it better fits the current conditions.

Whether we are considering the meaning and inspiration of the kintsugi art form or the wisdom contained in the many quotes we see on social media, it’s important to always keep in mind this issue of context.

Just because something is true or inspirational or encouraging doesn’t mean it fits my current situation or my current need.

Be gentle with yourselves and others when applying any of these “truths” (including the image of kintsugi for living) because what may be needed in this moment may just be the opposite “truth.”

When have you encountered situations where the “wrong” truth was being forced on you (either by yourself or someone else)?

How do you evaluate wisdom or advice you are given to ensure that it fits with your current needs?

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