Susan Steen

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” ― John Adams

Wearing a hat is important because we lose most of our body heat through our heads.

If you keep cracking your knuckles, you’ll get arthritis.

Penguins mate for life.

Last week, I wrote about the importance of admitting that others can be right even when we believe we are not wrong. It’s important, and so is something else: recognizing when other people are providing you with information that isn’t true, even if it is what your parents told you as a child.

It’s not much fun to have our bubbles burst, to admit that our truths aren’t based on facts, and to go so far as to make the effort to learn what is truth. John Adams was right, even as he stepped on Thomas Jefferson’s toe, (because that happened, right?) Facts are, as Adams said, stubborn things. We might wish something to be true, we might argue that it is true, but facts cannot be altered by our desires.

Waiting 30 minutes after you eat before swimming might mean that you are more comfortable and won’t risk cramping, but it’s not about the digestive issues. Penguins love one at a time, but they might love more than one mate in their lifetime. When you crack your knuckles, it is the bursting of synovial fluid bubbles that you hear, not the beginning of arthritis. And hats were thought to hold in all of the heat that you would be losing based on an experiment in the 1950s in which military persons were dressed warmly without hats, and the measured heat that was leaving the body came from ... the heads.

Later studies have shown that if you are wearing a swimsuit, the percentage of heat leaving through your head is much less. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Heat will escape wherever we are not covered. But these are the truths we have been told and have retold for most of our lives. We must decide if it matters to us to be telling the truth based on facts or if it’s too much trouble to find the truth to share in the place of such fiction.

When I first heard all of the “truths” mentioned at the beginning, I was a kid and there was no such thing as social media. Today, I hear even more “facts” that are anything but factual, and that is with the presence of the internet, where I can quickly check to see if something is fact or fiction.

But people don’t often check, and typically they share an article on social media based on the headline, never really reading the words contained therein. Maybe you have done that with things I’ve written, though I hope you have not. I spend a great deal of time researching to find facts that back up my words. I want you to feel safe repeating what I’ve written.

You’ve heard it said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, right? Actually, you can. Not only can you teach old dogs new tricks, studies show that even though it might take them longer, they are actually more dependable to do the right thing when presented with a challenge. Wonder if that works for people, too?

Why do I think this is so important to know your facts? Our lives are at risk. When you see a meme (a picture with text on it) that says your depression can be cured with cashews, it’s human nature to want to believe it, so you run to the store, buy a bag of cashews, and wait for your depression to pass. Cashews are tasty, and they might make you feel better — who knows — but they are not a substitute for legitimate treatment that begins with talking to a professional about what you are feeling.

If cancer could be cured by eating a certain berry or diabetes cured by eating okra, we would know. We so desperately want to believe things that we do.

Living in an age of information overload at times, it’s difficult to know if we can trust everything we see and hear. Why aren’t we doing a better job of verifying what we see and hear before we believe it (and worse repeat it)?

When I was first married many years ago, we had a Physician’s Desk Reference so we could look up our ailments, since no one wanted to bother the doctor, Today, walking through the office door can cost $150 or so, and resources on Google cost much less, so we find something that sounds like we can believe it instead of trying to verify the information we’ve discovered. Each time you see an article or hear a friend talking about

  • · a cure for cancer that you can claim as your own
  • · horrible actions of a candidate for mayor, president of a country or the PTA
  • · what one child did to the other

Take a breath

don’t rush to judgment

do some checking

Whether you go to Snopes.com, FactCheck.org or a few other trustworthy places, take the time to visit and read. Whether it is a religious question, a political question (which we all know is prevalent), a health question, or a question on what will really rid you of those pesky bugs, do your research. Don’t jump to conclusions. Buy yourself some time, especially if it’s in person, and say, “Hmm, that’s interesting.” Then run to your phone or computer and get some trustworthy help finding the truth.

Truth is stranger than fiction, or so they say. Why not help me save a few lives and trust but verify. Whatever you wish the truth to be just might not be right after all. And the truth might be much more exciting.

Susan Black Steen is a writer and photographer, a native Tennessean and a graduate of Austin Peay State University. With a firm belief that words matter, she writes and speaks to bring joy, comfort and understanding into each life. Always, she writes from her heart in hopes of speaking to the hearts of others.

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