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Consider the source

To the editor:

Who should we trust in this trying time? As citizens with a vote, as individuals with choices, we have decisions to make, but where will we get our information?

“Trust” is at the heart of this issue. Whose information should we rely on to help us with our decision making?

I’m guided by my mother’s advice. My mother and father raised six children, all born within eight years, so there was a lot going on in our home. One thing that happened, nearly every day it seemed, was someone crying to Mom, “So-and-so from school said this mean thing!”

My mother’s calm response was, “Consider the source.”

What did Mom mean by that? She would explain: Before you let something get you all riled up, give some thought to the person who said this thing that has you all upset. Are they knowledgeable? Fair-minded? Reliable? Willing to go on the record with their comment or was it whispered or passed on anonymously?

We can use her questions for our adult decision making, too. When we hear something, we can ask: How has that person or institution been known to behave in trying circumstances? Have they earned our respect and the respect of our neighbors and community? Do they uphold good values? We do not expect perfection, but it makes sense to consider the quality of information that comes from a source. If the source of the information is quite often wrong, or if what they say is not thoughtful, is perhaps unkind or manipulative, my mother would advise: Leave that opinion alone. There’s too much noise in the world to let ill-considered commentary rattle around your brain and cloud your own judgement.

Our times produce so much noise that it is hard to exercise careful judgement. All those comments on the internet. All those posts on Facebook. These platforms encourage us to make snap judgements, with click-bait headlines pushing us to line up with slogans and talking points. Frankly, the current situation makes it hard to “consider the source.” Slogans and talking points speak right to our feelings, and hurts, and fears. Just like the taunts of So-and-so on the playground. Remembering a mom’s advice, though, we realize the power of slowing down and considering the source. We can reclaim our ability to make carefully considered decisions.

Slowing down and considering the source does not guarantee that we will always decide correctly, but it is a good start. Slowing down and considering the source also helps us to be open to facts or opinions new to us that should be considered. To make good judgements, we need good information and we need the time to process it without emotion.

Thanks, Mom, for the advice. It’s held up over the years.

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