We’ve all heard it. It has become a slogan so common in conversation that most people don’t even realize the significance of what they are saying. We use it to end arguments that we’re otherwise unable to resolve. It is a useful tool for leaving a conversation when time demands we move on to other endeavors. It has become an acceptable way to deal with differences of opinion. But as a way to deal with questions of truth, it is misguided and even dangerous.
I am talking about the phrase: “The truth lies somewhere in the middle.”
Mostly when people use this phrase, they are not interested at all in the truth. They are only interested in the middle and in being seen as “reasonable,” “tolerant of other views,” and “moderate.” More than anything, they do not want others to view them as “extreme.” Many have become experts at excluding certain ideas from entering the arena of dialogue simply by attaching to them the word “extremist.”
The idea that truth lies somewhere in the middle comes from a philosophical perspective proposed by the German philosopher Georg W. F. Hegel. He called his theory “dialectics.” According to Hegel, truth is a moving target as one thesis clashes with its antithesis. What remains after the dust has fallen is a new synthesis. Hence, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
But what if Hegel was wrong? What if truth, rather than the result of a continuous evolution of conflicting premises, is simply an accurate description of what IS? What if there is something like an eternal LOGOS that serves as the standard of truth toward which we are all striving to reach and understand?
Jesus once called those who build their house on the sand, “foolish,” because when the storm comes, that house will fall. A wise man builds his house on the rock. When the winds come and the rains fall, that house will stand (Matthew 7:24-27).
This is not just true of houses but also of ideas. When the foundation of an idea is false, the entire edifice upon which that original falsehood is built is also false. No amount of coming to a middle ground will turn that house into a secure residence. You have to go back and rebuild the foundation.
I fear that many of us derive our understanding of leadership and management not from a firm foundation but by absorbing a hodgepodge of ideas from popular books and articles that are neither grounded in solid empirical evidence or on good logical argument.
So what should we do?
One of the most important steps we can take before adopting some new leadership theory is ask: What are the premises upon which it is built? Are they sound? Is there empirical evidence to support them? Is the logical progression from idea to application valid? The introduction of new theories built upon the sand have damaged many organizations. Just because it’s new does not mean it’s true.
Greg Waddell provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.