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How do we learn and gain knowledge? While in some cultures story telling is how wisdom and experience are passed to the next generations, in most places throughout the world the most popular method is reading. And while plenty of ideas are cast into our homes through television, newspaper, radio and the internet, the majority of this information is for marketing purposes or with some specific not-good-for-you agenda in mind. Real understanding comes from reading real books and serious writings. The bookstore and library (and part of the internet) are rich with it. But there is a catch.

There, at some level, has to be a trust that what is written is true and wise. The distant past is impossible to verify, even yesterday. How then can we know that what’s written is correct? Sure, we can research and compare writings to other writings. But what if the majority of writings on a subject are biased? Then we can never know for sure. In the end it comes down to our research, belief and opinion that what others wrote about was accurate. And there’s one more complication.

Quite often, the best we have is a half-blind faith in the writings of people we know very little about. “Half-blind” because, while we’ve done the research, we don’t know the writers. And there are plenty of deceitfully crafty writers. So with this half-blind faith we may be being duped about a lot of things. Can we then really trust any writings at all? There is one measure worth considering.

Credibility is worth more than writing genius. Sincerity takes blind faith and turns it to knowing. But we can’t possibly know the author to determine integrity, can we? Here’s the thing: We can’t necessarily trust what was written about them, but we can determine credibility and sincerity in their writings. Yes, between the lines! While agenda and writing style often make more copy and get more notice, a fox can usually smell a fox regardless. And a rose ends up smelling like a rose.

Credibility is buried in the text of an author’s writings and it makes itself known to the avid reader. That is why we must read and read books and articles. But you say, “I don’t have time to read a lot.” Then narrow it down. Discernment is cultivated by reading the writings of people who help for the love of helping.

For example, if you want to know about personal finances (and more) there is author Daniel Murphy, giving away free advice for the love of it. And there are a host of others dedicated to writing about all kinds of things for which they’re passionate. You can probably find some roses if you look.

We are losing touch in this area, folks. We’ve seen reports that most people have not read a non-fiction book since high school! We are not reading, much less serious books or articles by writers doing it for the love of helping others. Instead we want to be entertained. If we’re getting all of our “higher education” from television, newspaper, radio and the trash-side-of-the-internet then we’re letting the fox outfox us. That, actually, explains a lot considering the state of financial affairs worldwide.