I’m sure you’ve heard the common adage “don’t shoot the messenger”. Sometimes we receive bad news and immediately lash out in anger, disgust, or disappointment to whoever delivered that message. This phrase simply tells us to disconnect the messenger and the message. This is rather simple. Don’t be angry at the messenger for letting you know about something. Sure you can get into the deeper details about the motivation of the individual for spreading the message but if, when analyzed carefully, the information is accurate then it’s still useful whether or not the intention of the messenger pleases you.
Obviously it’s important to be careful about blindly accepting or rejecting information. It’s always important to check information to be factual, or to test it to see if it holds true before accepting it as truth. We have to understand, however, that information is separate from the individual passing along that information. Anyone passing along information can have any number of intentions behind it; it could be financial motivation, it could be compassionate, it could be malevolent even, but the information is still always separate.
A reliable source with good credentials can still PASS BAD INFORMATION, and questionable, or dubious sources can sometimes PASS GOOD INFORMATION.
This is very hard for most people to accept. We want to simplify our lives by trusting what we consider GOOD sources, and ignoring what we consider BAD sources. If we solely base our acceptance or rejection of information on this criteria though then we are subject to being easily misinformed, or potentially missing out on valuable information. The source we SHOULD be using to evaluate information should be OURSELVES and our own research of the information. We shouldn’t be blindly accepting information as true just because we trust the messenger nor automatically rejecting information because we don’t like the source.
This isn’t to say that someone who isn’t a medical doctor should be giving medical advice, or similar scenarios. There is certainly value in having good credentials.. But it doesn’t mean that just BECAUSE someone is a doctor that what they are saying is true. There is plenty of bad advice given on topics by people who in theory should know better. It happens frequently in every professional field of experts – people aren’t perfect and are sometimes wrong. Beware anyone who overtly claims they are the expert on a topic. People love to tout their qualifications as weapons and shields to attempt to win arguments. They love to flaunt their ego. What happens when someone sees through all of that? All that is left is the information. The information is separate from the identity and character of the person. The validity of the information makes or breaks the value attributed.
It is important to keep an open mind to learning something from a situation or source that we otherwise would write off as having no value to us. Sometimes we learn painful truth from people we don’t like. Sometimes a person we’ve always disagreed with or that comes from a background we dislike gives us valuable insight and information. Someone who is 60 can still learn something from a 6 year old. A doctor can learn something new from a patient. A teacher can learn from a student. A person of one religion can learn something from a person of another. A person on one side of the political system can learn from someone on the other side. If we check our ego at the door then we are more open to gaining useful insights.