There are few things more powerful and more important than the truth. Whether it be in a relationship, organization, institution, or the contemplations of your internal soul, the truth is vital for healthy living. It is the measure that tethers us to reality and goodness. It is the motivation that drives us.
But truth is more complicated than we think. We often mistake honesty for truth, especially in the modern West. One of the reasons our society is in such turmoil is because we assume certain things about truth and are baffled, offended, and angry when others don’t share our understanding. To us they seem to be deniers of the clear truth.
If we are going to be individuals, in relationships, and communities who revolve around the truth, we have to understand the complexities involved in pursuing truth and consider all of them. Otherwise, we shackle ourselves to a biased and superficial understanding of reality.
Obviously, truth begins with fact. When we talk about Moment of Truth with organizations, we advise them to start with yes or no questions about what happened. This determines the facts.
As straightforward as this appears, we can’t seem to get it right. Politicians can’t even agree on what the facts of an issue are. This is because we tend to make fact and truth synonyms. Facts are just the beginning of truth. There is much more at play than just being right about a fact. This deep truth drives us to distort and argue even facts. Because we think the entire truth rests on who can prove their facts.
This is where things get real complicated. The stories we create to make sense of the facts are all part of the truth. We interpret what the facts mean. Why they happened. These are all a part of pursuing the truth. because some of our stories are accurate and some are not.
Interpretations are biased. Undeniably biased. But that does not mean they are untrue. Emotions are a part of interpretation. And emotions are true in the sense they are real and valid and a part of exploring The Truth, but they are untrustworthy and “untrue” in the sense that they, like everything else on this list, do not tell the entire story.
We often mistake honesty for truth. Expressing how we feel is vulnerable and honest. But that does not mean it is deeply true. The imperfect interpretations we consider in response to what we experience in the world are a part of the complicated journey of truth. We cannot dismiss our interpretations, nor can we worship them. If we do so, we will start to believe the narratives we tell ourselves are the absolute truth.
Some of the most insufferable people are the ones who think the truth is all about being right. Knowing correct information. Even having the correct interpretation. But the truth is more complicated than that, and includes so many other things…