What a Tree Teaches Us About Truth
Mother Nature has a way of looking out for us. By providing trees, she is supporting so many of our basic needs. Trees provide oxygen for breathing, materials for shelter, food from their fruit, and carbon recapture for a cleaner environment. They also provide us with things that go beyond the basics and enhance our lives- the beauty of their flowers, the shade that keeps us cool, and a spot to lay under to ponder life’s mysteries.
It can be said that Truth also provides us with necessities to keep us socially and civically flourishing. And much like the tree, Truth relies on an interactive system in order to thrive. There are certain behaviors individuals must possess in order for them to be able to ascertain what is true. These behaviors are intellectual humility, a creative spirit, solid habits of thinking, and great communication skills, both receptive and expressive. Let us take this time to refocus on how these behaviors work together to better allow us success as we search for the Truth.
Picture these behaviors working like a tree’s system. The roots of a tree are the foundational level that provide the strength and nourishment that allows the tree to grow. Intellectual humility is equivalent to the roots when discussing behaviors of truth seekers. This humbleness of thought is vital to the growth of critical thinking skills as it allows the individual to ponder ideas foreign to their mindset, makes them less defensive in conversations with others of opposing views, and allows them to identify their own blind spots caused by their bias. Without this behavior, all attempts at discovering the truth will be weakened, and the ability to develop the other behaviors of a good thinker will also be stunted. The absence of intellectual humility creates a lack of synergy required for the growth of the other behaviors.
If intellectual humility can be thought of as the roots of critical thinking, then a creative spirit and well-developed habits of thinking are branches of the tree nourished by the roots of intellectual humility. Strengthening creative thinking by cultivating an open mind so that questioning of concepts are routinely completed and connections are created between new ideas that have been uncovered. Intellectual humility also fosters growth of strong mental thought processes. Finding the courage and self-confidence to persevere through the analysis of new concepts and then being able to reflect before making judgments are necessary abilities and outgrowths of this humbleness.
Finally, the upper canopy of the tree with its leaves and fruits can be likened to both the receptive and expressive communication behaviors needed to take in new information as well as share these insights with others. Having the ability to listen effectively and then clearly communicate your thoughts is vital to accumulating new insights and moving others to consider them. Just like the leaves of the tree provide vitality, active listening energizes the ability to acquire new ideas that can then be analyzed for bias. New connections can be made with this new information, creating a dynamic energy that forms new concepts of knowledge. These new understandings and beliefs act as the fruit of the tree. The sharing of these ideas can lead to the broadcast of the new offshoots, and if communicated properly, the spread of a newly identified truth.
While all of these behaviors are integral to the proper development of critical thinking skills, it is intellectual humility that gets to the root of good critical thinking. It is the crucial starting point in the progression of the growth of skills that facilitate truth-finding. I challenge you today to take the quiz below shared by Maurice Elias.
For each statement, respond with a Yes, No, or Maybe:
· “I recognize the value in opinions that are different from my own.”
· “I’m willing to admit it if I don’t know something.”
· “I’m willing to hear others out, even if I disagree with them.”
· “I question my own positions because they could be wrong.”
· “In the face of conflicting evidence, I usually am not open to changing my opinions.”
· “I can respect others, even if I disagree with them in important ways.”
Study the impact of the answers you gave for each statement. Is there an area you need to address as you move forward in your search for the truth? If so, create a plan that allows you to practice improving on that skill.
A tree can take decades to grow to maturity. Just like the tree, developing the skills to critically think in order to determine the truth does not happen overnight. By starting with intellectual humility and building on the other skills from there, you will have every chance to uncover the truth of the matter.
(Image created by Julie Seymour using Magic Studio by Canva on February 7, 2024)