Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | February 15, 2010

The Problem of Suffering

The problem of evil has been covered in depth by many great thinkers. I have a couple cents’ worth to add.

Simply stated, the problem of evil asks how a good god can allow evil to exist.

I like to refer to this problem by a more practical and empathetic label, the problem of suffering. Here’s a more complete statement of the problem.

Assuming that god is an “omni-god,” (omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and absolutely benevolent,) god could and should eliminate the pain and suffering in the world.

The existence of pain and suffering in the world shows that god, if god exists, must be one or more of the following: not powerful enough to eliminate them, not able to be present where they need to be eliminated, not aware of them, or not concerned enough about our welfare to eliminate them.

Since pain and suffering do in fact exist in the world, it follows that an omni-god does not exist.

There are lots of assumptions involved in the problem of suffering. They are so familiar to us that we tend to think that they are self-evident and that no reasonable alternatives to them exist. That’s a mistake. Alternatives do exist, and what’s more they are reasonable alternatives. What makes the alternatives seem unreasonable is a second mistake that for now I’ll call an unexamined baseline. In other words, we take for granted that our unexamined convictions are a good starting point, a baseline, and tend to be biased against altering them.

We all seem sure that there is too much pain and suffering in the world, but I’ll show that we are hard-pressed to clearly describe what an acceptable amount of pain and suffering would be, that we don’t know how to begin quantifying that, and that we are unclear about the reasons why we came to our convictions in the first place.

After thinking through the problem of suffering, we’ll see that it isn’t nearly the strong argument against the existence of god that it first appeared to be. This will beg the question why it appeared to be such a strong argument when it is not. I think that the answers to that question are quite revealing.

Assumption #1: Life Would Be Better If Pain and Suffering Did Not Exist

No pain when we cut our fingers, no pangs of conscience, no grief, no regret, no disappointment. Would that really be better? It doesn’t take much thought to understand the vital role that pain and suffering play in our lives. I suppose that if we had already learned everything that there was to learn, in other words we did everything perfectly, we would have little need for pain or suffering. Meanwhile, we are probably much better off if pain and suffering continue their corrective and deterrent roles in our lives. If god eliminated them, it would probably be good if it wasn’t a total elimination. Maybe we should revise our assumption a bit.

Assumption #1 Version 2: The Amount of Pain and Suffering in the World Should Be Reduced

Not too many people would argue with this assumption. Even fewer would agree that the amount of pain and suffering in the world should be increased. However, majority opinion has historically not been a very reliable indicator of truth, so maybe we should look a little closer at this. Maybe the majority has it backwards.

Consider an addict. While deep in the throes of his addiction, the last thing an addict wants to do is give his addiction up. An addict organizes everything in his life around his addiction. Whatever supports his addiction is “good” and whatever interferes with his addiction is “evil.” His family and friends who are watching him self-destruct have no question but that his addiction needs to go. Neither the addict nor his family and friends doubt that freeing him from his addiction will involve the intense pain and suffering of withdrawal. They just disagree about whether that would be a good thing. In his addicted state, an addict sincerely does not understand why his family and friends would want to increase his pain and suffering by ridding him of his addiction.

We could argue about whether the human race is living in addiction. I would say that our never-ending stream of promises to ourselves and each other to become “better” in spite of the ongoing, dismal reality of our conduct is strangely similar to addictive behavior. Maybe our general level of pain and suffering is far too low. Maybe we spend a lot of time and effort and money erasing valid, even beneficial pain and suffering instead of solving the problems that cause them. Maybe if our experience of pain and suffering became more intense, it would motivate us to actually solve those problems and permanently eliminate much of the pain and suffering that those problems cause.

We won’t settle this argument here, but it’s a valid argument, and my purpose was to point that out. Life might actually become better if our pain and suffering increased. We only assume that life would be better if they decreased.

Assumption #2: Pain and Suffering Must Be Reduced Immediately

Even if we allowed that things would be better if pain and suffering in the world were reduced, we need to make another assumption in order to say that things as they are now are not the way that they should be. We must assume that pain and suffering should already have been reduced. In other words, we must reject the notion that a process to reduce pain and suffering is underway but not yet finished.

This assumption completely ignores the element of time, normally not a good idea. Like self-entitled customers who needed everything “yesterday,” we seem to expect that if pain and suffering were ever going to be reduced, it would have happened already. And since it hasn’t happened already, curiously, we tend to believe that it never will. This conviction is a “faith” that implies a bias which we will get into later. It’s enough for now to recognize that although we don’t like the idea that eliminating pain and suffering might take time, it is still a legitimate possibility.

Assumption #3: All Pain and Suffering Are Unacceptable

The problem of evil nicely sidesteps some difficulties that the problem of suffering must face head-on, which is one of the reasons why I would rather discuss the problem of suffering. The problem of evil doesn’t solve or eliminate these difficulties; it just tricks us into overlooking them.

Evil is something that everybody in principle agrees is a bad thing. After all, being bad is what evil is all about. As long as we keep the notion of evil general, we can allow ourselves to think that we know what we’re talking about and that we agree with each other. The difficulties start when we try to specifically say what is or is not evil. When we try to do that, we quickly realize that we don’t always know what we’re talking about and that we certainly don’t agree with each other. If we can’t say which specific evils should or should not be eliminated, then we don’t specifically know what we’re talking about when we claim that the existence of evil proves that a good god cannot it exist. The notion of suffering avoids all this trickiness.

The problem of suffering must wrestle with another important and practical factor that the problem of evil sidesteps: the distinction between “acceptable” and “unacceptable” pain and suffering. It doesn’t make sense to talk about acceptable or unacceptable evil. The very notion of evil rules out anything acceptable, which nicely oversimplifies discussion about the problem of evil. The problem of suffering avoids this oversimplification. Our examination of the previous assumptions indicates that we should indeed make a distinction between acceptable and unacceptable pain and suffering.

When pain and suffering help us learn valuable lessons and reinforce the consequences of our poor decisions and behavior, we could consider them “acceptable” pain and suffering. When pain and suffering are inflicted unjustly or disproportionately, we could consider them “unacceptable.” The notion of unacceptable pain and suffering is similar to the notion of evil in that it’s “all bad” and specifics are debatable, but pain and suffering bring the discussion closer to home. They are less abstract than the notion of evil. This makes specifics less problematic, and that’s a good thing.

We have tended to focus on the nature and the outcome of pain and suffering. What about the nature and the merits of the sufferer? We might agree that the pain and suffering of an infant should be eliminated, that very little pain or suffering, if any, is acceptable for an infant, and that we and god should do everything we can to eliminate them. Would we want to eliminate the pain and suffering of a child abuser? Many of us feel that there isn’t much pain or suffering that we would find unacceptable for a child abuser. So, the acceptability or unacceptability of pain and suffering also seems to depend on who experiences them.

It seems that there are more than a few variables involved in the acceptability or unacceptability of pain and suffering. I wonder: how clear are we about what we expect an omni-god to do about them? We could challenge ourselves to show precisely what pain and suffering god has failed to reduce. If we can’t manage to do that, we can’t really say what specific pain or suffering constitutes grounds for banishing god from the possibility of existing. It’s a real problem for the problem of suffering.

Assumption #4: Pain and Suffering Are the Real Problem

So let’s take it to the limit. I introduced the problem of suffering or the problem of evil as something worth discussing. It seems like an important problem. What do I mean by calling it an assumption.

To play devil’s advocate, why do we have a problem with pain and suffering? Why isn’t our problem with pleasure and joy? Pain, suffering, pleasure, and joy might fall on different sides of the coin of human experience, but they are still two sides of the same coin. What rationale justifies the expectation that god should interfere with our pain and suffering while leaving our pleasure and joy untouched? In order to prevent pain and suffering, god would need to somehow intervene in our affairs. Why don’t we expect god to intervene in order to increase our pleasure and joy? Why are we indignant when god apparently fails to intervene on one side of the coin but not when god fails to intervene on the other? While we’re at it, why not wonder why god doesn’t reduce our pleasure and joy? Are we so sure that we are entitled to what little we get.

Admittedly, I’m pushing limits here. Actually, if we accept the presence of pain and suffering in the world as evidence that god does not exist, the lack of pleasure and joy in the world could serve as further evidence. Let’s call it the problem of pleasure. You would think that atheists would make more out of the lack of pleasure in human experience, if only to get the goats of the many religiously-minded believers who seem to think that pleasure is a doorway for much of the evil in the world, and so, a doorway also for much of the suffering. It’s interesting that although the problem of pleasure is logically equivalent to the problem of suffering, it doesn’t carry nearly the persuasive power. Maybe the anti-pleasure sentiments of believers have rubbed off on the atheists, so that everyone seems inclined to downplay the problem of pleasure.

What I’m trying to point out is that we tend to frame the problem of suffering in terms that we cannot justify rationally or logically, terms which we largely haven’t even considered rationally or logically. In spite of this, something guides us to pay attention to certain assumptions and vest importance in them while we overlook other logically valid assumptions. Something makes the problem of suffering an important issue to us. That something relates more to primal indignation than it does to rationality.

Pain and Suffering: What Is the Real Problem?

Simply acknowledging the above assumptions tends to weaken the problem of suffering argument. Let’s restate it making these assumptions explicit and clear and see how it reads.

Assuming that god is an “omni-god,” (omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and absolutely benevolent,) god could and should eventually eliminate pain and suffering from the world when they are unacceptable, i.e., they are not beneficial or they unjustly affect the innocent.

If unacceptable pain and suffering are never eliminated from the world, it would show that god, if god exists, must be one or more of the following:  not powerful enough to eliminate them, not able to be present where they need to be eliminated, not aware of them, or not concerned enough about our welfare to eliminate them.

Since unacceptable pain and suffering in fact do exist in the world, it follows that an omni-god might not exist.
Once we expose its assumptions, the problem of suffering certainly doesn’t represent the strong argument against god’s existence that it appeared to be at first. (The problem of evil involves the same assumptions and is rationally and logically no stronger an argument.) Why is this argument still making its rounds with its assumptions cleverly hidden after centuries of opportunity to expose them.

The success of the argument actually depends on showing that unacceptable pain and suffering exist at unacceptable levels, not simply that they exist at all as typical formulations of the argument suggest. That’s a different challenge, one that might seem doable at first blush, but which turns out to be a tall order when you try to articulate it. I encourage you to give it a try. If you meet with success, I’d love to hear about it. But there’s still that pesky element of time. Introducing the possibility of a process of reducing pain and suffering over time practically kills the argument.

You might think that this would be the end of the matter. Yet the problem of suffering still seems important, still seems like a strong argument. Why.

Pain and Suffering: Our Bias

Pain and suffering can make us deeply indignant towards the idea of a god that allows them to continue. I have a good friend who used to work in a hospital emergency room. She has held dead, battered babies in her hands. I can’t think of a more appalling kind of pain and suffering than the abuse and exploitation of children. An estimated 25,000 children die daily, and hundreds of millions more suffer. This is unacceptable. These are things that make us weep and rage. Why doesn’t god do something about them, if there is a god.

Let me ask some questions at this point. What percentage of the pain and suffering experienced by children is the consequence of something besides human behavior beyond their control? Less than 50%? Less than 10%? Sure, it’s hard to quantify, but we can take a best guess. Can you think of examples of childhood pain and suffering that were caused by something besides human behavior? An obvious example would be natural disasters: storms, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, wild beasts. Are these examples the kind of pain and suffering that prompt us to indignantly blame god or deny that god exists.

The awful disaster of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, one of the deadliest earthquakes on record, was notable because of something that did not happen. There was no general outcry against the injustice of the pain and suffering inflicted on the people of Haiti. Atheists didn’t line up on talk shows and write newspaper editorials about how the devastation proved that god does not exist, or that any god that exists is too puny or evil to have prevented the tragedy. Large numbers of believers did not lose their faith in god’s power and goodness. Actually, just the opposite happened.

If there is any kind of pain and suffering that should be blamed on god, pain and suffering inflicted by natural disasters should be foremost. The problem of suffering argues that things like natural disasters demonstrate that it a good omni-god cannot exist. Historically, natural disasters have done just the opposite, demonstrating to the people that witness them and experience them that god in fact does exist and is tremendously powerful. And strangely, we don’t seem to feel like blaming god for them when they happen. At least we don’t jump on the opportunity to do so when it presents itself. Instead, we tend to blame god for what we do, for example, for the pain and suffering inflicted each day on hundreds of millions of children by the people in their lives.

To be fair, disasters like the earthquake in Haiti do serve as evidence that no god exists as far as many atheists are concerned. However, I wonder how many of those atheists have personally experienced a major natural disaster? Those who have can base their opinions on experience. I would listen very closely to someone who was in Haiti last January or in the Sichuan province of China in May, 2008, or present for some other natural disaster and came away impressed that the event reinforced the problem of suffering argument against god’s existence. The rest obviously think that their opinions make sense, but it isn’t clear that they derive that conviction from anything more substantial than informed speculation.

Few things trigger our indignation like pain and suffering. However, feelings are not justified simply because we feel them, however deep they might run. All things considered, the problem of suffering looks less like a solid, rational assessment of the problems that pain and suffering pose for god’s existence than a rationalization of the indignation, and frankly the helplessness, that we feel when confronted by the pain and suffering we see in the world around us.

None of us is comfortable with the idea that the pain and suffering in the world is acceptable, even slightly acceptable. Even so, the rational, logical strength of the problem of suffering does not support its persuasiveness as an argument against the existence of god. The argument is more attractive to us than it should reasonably be. Why.

Bluntly put, we don’t like pain and suffering. We object to them, even when they are necessary and beneficial and especially when they are unwarranted or unjust. Thinking the matter through, understanding the issues, and on that basis creating an approach to effectively reduce, control, and manage pain and suffering is a daunting task, particularly if most human pain and suffering is caused by the behavior of other human beings. That would make our pain and suffering, in a general but very real sense, self-inflicted. Could it be that we hope or expect that god must fix the situation for us, as we often do when faced with other seemingly impossible situations? And then, since it seems that god has not fixed it, do we blame god for failing us? Or are we simply in denial, blaming god for things that we are ashamed to admit we inflict upon ourselves? At least we have to admit that these are fair questions. God might not be at fault. Maybe we are just in denial, desperately deflecting.

Pain and Suffering: Is There An End?

The problem of suffering opens another can of worms that isn’t initially obvious. Expecting god to reduce pain and suffering on one hand, or on the other hand declaring that god is nonexistent because pain and suffering have not been reduced, puts us squarely into a kind of infinite regress. In other words, at some point god’s expected intervention would itself become a problem, because eliminating pain and suffering would require god to intervene more and more deeply into our affairs without an end in sight. I’ll illustrate this with a hypothetical example.

Imagine an alcoholic father who beats his wife and children when he gets into a drunken rage. According to the problem of suffering, an omni-god would need to intervene in this situation to reduce pain and suffering or be disqualified from existence. At what point should god intervene to prevent this family’s pain and suffering? Should god strike the father down as he raises his fist, or when he first begins his rage, or when he first lifts the glass to his lips? Should god have intervened when the man’s own father used to get drunk and beat him? Should god have prevented the genetic traits that predisposed his family to alcoholism? How much intervention would be enough, and at what point would it become too much? How much intervention would it take to eventually overrule any real possibility of individual choice, and along with it any real notion of individual responsibility? At what point does our expectation that god should intervene in our affairs amount to a requirement that god should transform us into angels.

We don’t even know how to start answering those questions. To accept god’s existence, the problem of suffering requires that something must happen that we can only imagine in the most general, vague terms, i.e., the reduction of pain and suffering in the world. Surely we can’t say that we find the problem of suffering to be persuasive because of a deep understanding of the issues involved. We can’t even think through the requirement for pain and suffering reduction well enough to be sure that it makes sense. And it’s hard to avoid noticing that the whole train of thought seems headed towards holding god accountable for the fact that we are not angels. Scapegoating god this way seems like a close cousin to the way that some believers relegate the entire problem of suffering to “god’s will,” as if little can be done about pain and suffering unless god does it for us.

Atheists cite pain and suffering as proof that god does not exist. Believers cite god’s will as the reason that pain and suffering continue to exist. Both seem to agree that the responsibility for pain and suffering belongs to god. It might be a god that is not there or it might be a god that is there, but it’s all on god’s shoulders either way. Interesting but strange bedfellows.

Pain and Suffering: Our Responsibility

So we’ve come to the heart of the matter. Someone is responsible for  the pain and suffering in the world, but who? Pain and suffering disturb us deeply enough that banishing god from existence over the issue doesn’t strike us as an overreaction. What if this issue weren’t really about the existence of god at all, but an argument about who is responsible for the pain and suffering in the world.

I’ve tried to show that the problem of suffering is not the hands-down argument against the existence of god that it appears to be at first. I’ve also described how a good part of the persuasive power of the argument comes from its affinity to a predisposition of our hearts, i.e., a bias, rather than from strength of reason. I went so far as to hint that the problem of suffering might amount to little more than a scapegoat tactic. My intention in doing these things was to open our minds to possibilities as opposed to proving points. I’ll go a little further.

What if the real issue behind all of this is that human suffering poses a threat to what I’ll brazenly call the myth of our goodness as human beings? What if bringing god’s existence into the argument is just a ruse? Is that really such a stretch? In fact, precisely because of this, I think that we should all become atheists. Let’s just get god completely out of the picture. Maybe god isn’t the real issue. Maybe the real issue is that we need to deal with human suffering and stop wasting our time scapegoating.

Human suffering might be interminable. Human life might be a bitch and then we’ll all die. If so, who really cares who is or is not obstinately clear-thinking and realistic? If we bravely face the facts, so what? What will our reward be when the fact is that the facts suck? Like an ancient wisdom-writer once put it, our righteousness is a matter that only interests us. Intellectual integrity is neither here nor there when both it and folly end up in the same nothingness. A fictitious god might be just what we need to ease the pain and enable a little light to shine once in a while before we all disappear into the murk.

On the other hand, what if we were well able to put an end to human pain and suffering? What if it turns out that we can do it all on our own without any help from a god? If we believed this, we would already be doing something about it. We wouldn’t be interested in questions about god’s responsibility. We wouldn’t fault god, even banish god from existence, for failing to deal with something that we already have well in hand. We would be too busy reducing human pain and suffering to worry about the almighty. Obviously, such is not the case.

I’ve talked to atheists who declared with fire in their eyes that if a god exists that allows the kind of pain and suffering we see in the world, they refuse to have anything to do with it. They would rather go to hell. They are so invested in the issue that they are willing to risk god’s wrath and hellfire in order to protest god’s apparent failure. I don’t doubt the sincerity of their convictions, nor do I wish to minimize those convictions. However, wouldn’t a deep investment in the issue, a genuine, personal commitment to eliminating pain and suffering from the world, cause us to seek the most the effective course towards achieving that end? It’s hard to see how protesting against god and ending up in hell would be an effective way of eliminating pain and suffering in the world. In fact, it is hard to see how it is even relevant. Focusing on god’s failure rather than on the welfare of our fellow man who experiences pain and suffering seems like a distraction, a detour.

It is curious that both sides of the argument about god’s existence view the problem of suffering in ways that support a status quo of interminable suffering.

I’ve tried to be as detached as I can, but now I’d like to weigh in.

I suggest that we start using our fingers to do something besides finger-pointing. Whether we point fingers at god or at each other doesn’t really matter much. Either way we still aren’t doing anything to solve the problem.

I suggest that we accept our responsibility for the pain and suffering in the world, all of the pain and suffering in the world. Yes, as a matter of fact, all of it is all our faults.

I suggest that we accept this responsibility individually, personally, and as a race.

I suggest that we commit ourselves to eradicating human pain and suffering with god’s help. If it turns out that god does not exist, what does that matter? We might waste some time praying and wondering why we get no answers, but it’s hard to see how we’d be much worse off. If god does not exist, we are all headed for the murk of nothingness anyway. Why not improve what little life we have in the meantime? Whether god exists or not, either way there is plenty for us to do.

God really isn’t the problem, anyway. The problem is that we have postured ourselves as victims. We don’t believe. I’m not saying that we don’t believe in god or in ourselves or in each other or in the species or in evolution or in Mother Earth or in Gaia or in something else. The problem is that we don’t really, truly believe in anything.

I figure that I’ll get objection to that statement. Sure, we all have our beliefs, our faiths, even beliefs in god and beliefs in the non-existence of god. More often than not, these “beliefs” convince us that the status quo of human pain and suffering will never change and that we can do nothing about it. If these “beliefs” don’t enable us to believe, they are unbeliefs. If they don’t enable us to believe that the deplorable status quo can be improved, if they don’t enable us to act and in fact improve the status quo, they are anti-beliefs. They disable us. They don’t help. They don’t count. We would be better off without them.

I suggest that we all start wherever we like and believe. Faith in anything that helps us eliminate pain and suffering will lead us to each other and to everything else that’s worth believing in. Believe that we can eradicate human suffering. Believe in whatever helps you to do it. Then start doing it. And while you’re at it, get whatever help you can get. We can’t afford to be picky on this one. We’ll need every bit of help that we can get, even if we have to turn to god to get it.

Let’s let our indignation about human suffering move us to constructive action instead of what it sometimes looks like our indignation might be: a mask for indifference, an excuse to throw up our hands and turn away, shrugging off our responsibility and pointing fingers at a god that might or might not be there.

If we believe that we can act and succeed, does it really matter why? If we believe that we can’t, well… We’re already familiar enough with that, aren’t we?

__________

PS. Regarding all the naysaying out there, and there is plenty of it…

I’ve heard arguments all my life that we can’t this and we can’t that, that it’s impossible, that it’s naïve and idealistic. It doesn’t seem to matter what the “it” in question is, these arguments are much the same regardless of what they argue is impossible, naïve, or idealistic. This is because they aren’t about the what; they are about the can’t.

I’ve examined these arguments of unbelief, as many as I could find and had the stomach for. I’ve understood them. They didn’t sound right when I first heard them. Now they just sound like cowardly BS, assertions of would-be experts who are standing with both feet on the ground, wrangling about how the plow should and shouldn’t be driven and how far it can and can’t go. No end of words flow from their mouths and their pens, in spite of the fact that they are standing flat on the ground with arms folded. They can make out like experts on plowing, but their real message, silently declared by their planted feet and folded arms, is “We can’t do it!

I believe them. They can’t. What’s more, their inability to believe and act negates the imagined expertise by which they predict that neither can we.

Let’s stop listening to anyone and everyone who hasn’t put both hands on the plow and both feet into the furrow and started turning up new earth with the damned thing.

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Responses

  1. interesting argument…I think that I have an interesting story to tell you. There is a woman I know from our church in CA that had been ill for a long time. In the fall, the doctors put her on a list for a lung transplant. She had a short amount of time left. In early December, everyone’s prayers and hopes were answered. Through someone else’s pain and suffering, her lungs became available for her transplant. They proceeded with her transplant. She has suffered greatly since the operation in December, and it has been touch and go at times. On FB this morning, the news is that she hopes to come home in about a week or so. I think this is a miracle. Through much prayer from lots of people and the science of doctors and the suffering of her and her donor, she is healing…How is that for belief in God?

    • That’s a wonderfully apt story and I’m glad to hear it’s going well for your friend. I never did get the “either/or” between science and faith. Believers who refuse science and scientists who refuse faith, what’s up with that? For a long time I just took their word for it. I thought I had things to learn and that the either/or was real. According to them it was real, anyway. Now I just chuckle. We’ve got people like Richard Dawkins who should know better declaring war on belief in God. OMG. We’ll argue about which side of the boat to row on, we’ll even throw each other out of the boat, but we all agree that there’s only one paddle! What would happen if we used two paddles and rowed on both sides at the same time? Is that a novel idea or something? Jeez…

  2. “As long as we keep the notion of evil general, we can allow ourselves to think that we know what we’re talking about and that we agree with each other.” This seems to be notion of all great blanket terms. No one wants to “digress” into more examination, to actually see whether they both truly agree. That would defeat the purpose of the term. All they want is the affirmation of the same language they’ve been taught. If I say blue but blue is green and you say blue too at least we both agree that blue is a word that we both know, hahaha. Like art or, whatever, but on the other hand I think that things like evil we truly do know and understand, but often true understanding surpasses words. We know when we’re presented with evil, i believe any way, its just to hold faith that our instinctive understanding is more valid than our rational that seems to be the trick, because we’re ironically afraid to be mislead, yet 10 times out of 10 we rationally lead ourselves in the wrong direction. Another way addicts affirm their own addiction, is through rationalization, because you can rationalize yourself to do whatever you want.

    • Hey bud, don’t know why I never responded to your great comments. I probably read them and intended to, but lost track.

      I agree, we seem to prioritize agreement over honesty. When honesty looks like it will lead to conflict, we resort to withholding and lies. I’ve sworn off. There are ways to avoid conflict and stay honest. We’re just piss poor at it for lack of practice.

      “Holding faith that our instinctive understanding is more valid than our rational” is honest. Everyone trusts their instincts; that’s the way we’re wired. Instinct comes before rationality. It’s what rationality organizes around. But then, for whatever reason, we decide to organize our thinking around something else, which almost involves accepting the rationalizations of other people. Stripped down, that means we just abandoned our instincts to accept the instincts of others. Their instincts aren’t better than ours. Replacing our instinctive understanding with someone else’s violates us, even when we do it willingly.

      Thanks for your thought Rob!


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