Absolutes and Gray Areas

I am naturally inclined to look at a topic from every angle in order to find the truth in it. Empathy and understanding have always been strengths, most likely developed out of a need to survive my toxic, abusive, narcissistic parents. I’ve always wondered why some people have such a hard time seeing other points of view. This question is the fallout from being raised by narcissists whom I knew and understood very well, but never bothered to know me.

I’ve noticed there is a correlation between absolute thinkers and abusers. Abusive people have to be right. They will destroy anything or anyone who challenges what they believe is right. And what many abusers believe is right is black and white thinking. Abusers make sweeping statements about people and ideas, like, “Homosexuality is a disorder.” “All Muslims are terrorists.” “Liberals are pussies.” You get the idea. They are the Archie Bunkers among us.

Black and white thinkers seem to enjoy making a sport out of it.  Instead of seeing the human race as one, they believe only their exclusive team can win. “Winning” is important to them. To them, perhaps winning means that God pulls back the curtain and pins the blue ribbon on their lapel for being his most prized possession. I know absolute thinkers who truly believe their prejudices are doing God some kind of favor, as if He wanted them to be his spokesmen.

There are a lot of absolute thinkers who reside in churches, judging anyone who doesn’t attend the same four walls they do. They also judge the ones inside their own walls. They are constantly comparing themselves to others, because again, they have to be “winning” at being more spiritually pious than their neighbor. They are so spiritually immature that any challenge to their belief system will put them in a tailspin. If they entertain any idea that they could be wrong, it means they also have to question their very fragile and narrow concept of who God is. And they simply cannot have a crisis of faith, because they are right, damn it.

Ironically, in theological circles, there is a lot of discussion of what the absolutes and gray areas are. Yet, in a healthy theological debate, neither can exist without the other. Educated theologians know this, but an absolute thinker will reject anything outside of their own belief as “wrong.”

Because of their insatiable quest to be right, absolute thinkers hate the gray areas. They also hate the people who represent gray areas. You know the types. Open minded, free thinkers who go barefoot, shop at farmers markets, and smell like patchouli. Whole movements have embraced gray area thinkers. And while the black and white folks are grumbling about their hippy toe rings and moral relativism, the gray area thinkers don’t understand why these people don’t just chill the fuck out. They don’t seem to understand that someone who thinks in absolutes cannot, will not, entertain other points of view. The thing is, when one entertains too many gray areas without some kind of filter, it can also turn into abuse. When nothing is ever “wrong”, people get hurt in horrible ways. Ask me how I know.

My point is, there are some things in this world that are absolutely right and absolutely wrong. Loving people is right. Abusing them is wrong. We need clear laws, and subsequently, we need clear definitions of what constitutes right and wrong. We need good, clear minded people to act as an authority on these matters. I believe the path to identify what’s truly right and wrong is through sifting through all the gray areas, and making our own decisions, one by one. We need to empower all people to think critically. We need to teach people how to question anyone who tells them what to think, instead of how to think. There is universal truth in good and evil, and independent, critical thinking is the pathway to understanding what’s truly right and wrong. God is present in critical thinking. Truth is present in critical thinking. Dostoyevsky once stated that “beauty will save the world,” but perhaps before we are collectively ready to decide what is beautiful, we need to reclaim our ability to think for ourselves.


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