It seems to me that much of the conflict in life ~ both in the society around me and in my personal relationships ~ boils down to the misconception that more than one viewpoint, opinion, belief, or experience cannot represent truth. The pervasive lie that if your understanding is different or in “opposition” to mine then you are trying to invalidate me.
It calls to mind the parable of the four blind men trying to describe and categorize an elephant. One was feeling the tail, one an ear, one a leg, and one the trunk. With only their limited sense of touch and staying within the scope of the available range from their fixed position, they each had a singular experience which only encompassed a small portion of the whole. So, when they each described the elephant none of them had it completely right, but they argued mightily, each insisting that his experience and understanding was the only correct one and that all of the others were wrong, ignorant, mistaken, and invalid.
The reality is that none of their descriptions were complete. Even if all of their descriptions had been combined, their understanding would still have been incomplete because no one had experienced the body, the tusk, or the head.
However, each one had a valid experience and perspective to offer. Just because each was dissimilar from all the others does not mean that any were wrong or invalid.
What if, instead of needing to have his viewpoint validated by the agreement of another, each man accepted the validity of his experience and extended that acceptance to each of the others? Would they then have been able to piece together a more complete picture? Would they have been able to invest their energy into working together to discover the greater truth?
How does this apply in my life? I can accept the validity of the experiences of each of my loved ones and understand their experiential realities of the pain and harm they have experienced with each other and with me. I can accept the reality that what each experienced during their impressionable and early developmental years informed and impacted their thoughts, feelings, and actions today. I can validate each one without negating the other.
However, I can’t change the fact that each one is still in the space where they believe me validating another’s experience means I am invalidating their own.
In the meantime, I continue to choose to walk this difficult path of accepting each one’s truth as part of a greater whole, even as I battle my own internal questions of my validity because all of those around me accuse and demand I choose one over the other.