Nancy Conger, CPCC

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The Opposite of Truth is...Truth.

The Divine cannot be contained in one idea or form. As soon as we think we've "got" it, we've squelched it into a puny human construct. Any idea someone espouses about God, the Universe, ________ (insert your preferred term here) can be argued another way from someone equally spirit-filled and earnest.

I struggled for years with the ever-puzzling nature of the divine. Was it a creative force filled with love, deeply and personally caring for every detail of our lives? Or a benign and indifferent power that set the laws of the universe in motion and is simply letting them roll? Both seem true, depending upon what perspective I consider at the moment.

Does each of us truly matter? There was a time when my self-esteem was low and the thought of my life deeply mattering was a needed, loving boost. Later in my life, as I took on all the troubles of the world and worked and worked and worked because I believed everything I did really mattered, I needed the opposite perspective: I was not essential to the universe. I was no more important than the billions of other people who have walked this planet, and the trillions of dragonflies that have flown, and the innumerable blades of grass. The world would stay on its path regardless of my efforts, good or bad. It was sweet relief.

There are wise teachings that say that when something is true, its opposite is also true. And so, we do matter. And we really don't. The divine is made of pure love. And the divine is neutral. Even when I've sought truth in such safe, over-arching maxims as "moderation in all things," I've realized that there are even limits to those. There is a time for excess and zealotry. And so even that wise maxim needs a disclaimer of "Moderation in moderation!"

At one time I was manager of Employee Relations at a large company. One of my responsibilities was to be sure we were making meaningful progress on Affirmative Action goals. I believe in affirmative action, because I know enough about human nature to know that we tend to hire and promote those who are most like us. That makes it hard for anyone who is not "the norm." I didn't want people's biases making decisions that should be made upon performance and qualifications. So, I vigorously worked for the principles of affirmative action.

Then I left the corporate world and moved to the country. Suddenly I was in a world that operated upon the opposite of affirmative action: information and help was offered if you had personal connections and similarity with a person. It was amazing how things would open up for my roommate at the time, who was Norwegian. Since the majority of people in that community were descendants of the first Norwegian settlers, they bonded to Kay and practically adopted her as a daughter on the spot. In a rural place where there is no central source for information (such as in a large metro area, with a comprehensive yellow pages, centralized government, etc.) and each small community is fairly isolated from the next, it is essential to make those bonds of sameness in order to be part of the informal information network. And I could see that this way of operating was good--even though it is based upon principles that are directly opposed to those of affirmative action. It fostered talking with neighbors, lingering at gas stations, delving for connection with people, something our modern world severely lacks. I was in a philosophical pickle. To resolve it, I had to admit that, despite the fact that the worlds of affirmative action and rural life were based on pretty much opposite truths, they were both good.

In my work as a personal coach I see the beauty of multiple and opposite truths. Since the coaching process brings out a person's inner wisdom and clear thinking, a client often comes upon a truth that helps guide him or her. And in my next coaching call with someone else, an opposite truth may arise, and it will be perfect for that person. I am humbly reminded that coaching is not about me being a big expert and telling clients what to do; it is about helping people each find the guiding principles that work for them. And, as a coach, I see time and again that opposites are true.

Clients may even be working on opposite aims. One is starting a business and working hard, another is trying to find balance by working less. One is working on cleaning up her house while another is trying to let go of her perfectionism. I have learned to reside calmly in the place where many opposing things are true.

I like the debate team exercise of taking an issue and deliberately arguing for the side that you disagree with. If we could all cultivate this degree of compassion for other viewpoints, we could live more peacefully with our gorgeous and divine diversity. So when you find yourself all hot about how wrong someone is, try looking for the wisdom in their oppositeness.

And remember, one thing is sure. Everything I've written here is true. And not.

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