[Spoiler alert for anyone who has not watched the last episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Do NOT keep reading.]
Watching the last two episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was a somewhat painful reminder that the truth is subjective. We all live in our own realities, and the Reverend was doing a great job convincing the courtroom that his version of reality was the same as theirs by positioning himself as someone who shared their values:
Last time I checked, faith wasn’t a crime in this country…so why am I being tried for my belief that the Apocalypse is coming? …the only thing I’m guilty of is trying to save these girls from the End of Days! I just done goofed up and got the date wrong! Now, if being bad at math is against the law, well then lock me up! -Rev. Richard Wayne Gary Wayne, Episode 11: “Kimmy Rides a Bike!”
See, people of small-town Indiana? Rev. Richard Wayne Gary Wayne is just like you – in his reality, the Bible is a source of truth, the Apocalypse is a real event that is certain to happen at some point in time, and he was just trying to be a decent person and save some ladies! On top of that, he just happens to be handsome, charming, and awfully humble – not a fancy lawyer or anyone good at math (surely you all can relate to that, right small-town folk? Why should your understanding of reality be any different than his when you have so much in common?) – his “crime” was just an honest mistake that any God-fearing Christian would have made if they had been convinced the End of Days was nigh!
We see this happen all the time in comedies and even some dramas. A bad guy convinces people to see his actions from his point of view, and our heroes are left scrambling to prove that their side of the story is the Truth (which is obvious to the audience, since we have been watching events unfold in the way the Hero interprets them.) Luckily, objective evidence is used to show that the Reverend was lying, and that his story was just an attempt to manipulate the hearts and minds of the community he sinned against.
As you may have already noticed, in real life it is not always so easy to prove whether someone else’s version of reality is what they sincerely believe, or just an excuse for them to get their own way.
Resolving conflicts that involve different understandings of reality first requires trust that everyone involved holds a position based on their genuine beliefs. If we assume that everyone who disagrees with us is like the Reverend, we are never going to resolve anything.
Even Kimmy Schmidt lets herself trust in others despite having every reason never to trust a single person on the planet ever again. (Especially after seeing how easily her community seemed to forgive/forget the crime committed against her and the other On the other hand, it is possible for others to experience reality in ways profoundly different from us. Even if we share the same culture and values, we can’t just assume that our truth is The truth.
But as a general rule of thumb, try to avoid shortcuts pointed out by white men with four first names and religious titles. If you do feel the need to listen to their understanding of reality, that’s great…but stick to doing so in well-lit, public places.