The Power of the Truth
Most societies place a great deal of value on the truth. We want to know what’s real, what’s true. Honesty is crucial when it comes to healthy relationships and friendships and lies can irreparably break this connection. Being truthful is seen as a positive personality trait, something we teach our children is important from a young age. Lying is wrong. Always tell the truth. But why? Why is the truth so powerful?
In order to answer this question, let’s look at the opposite of truth. Dishonesty, deceit. It’s undeniable that there are people in the world who are dishonest and deliberately deceive people but they are few and far between. Why? Because if the majority of us were dishonest and untrustworthy, society would quite literally unravel. The modern world is built on a sturdy foundation of truth and fairness. Lies and distrust challenge everything which is required to make our society not only function but thrive.
There are dishonest people (and companies) in the world, but the majority of us are fairly truthful in our day to day lives. That truth, the honest way in which we interact with those around us helps us to form social connections. Beyond that, it enables us to form strong social bonds; ones which are able to develop into loving, caring relationships. As innately social creatures, these connections strengthen society and make us more successful, more productive and happier individuals.
But the truth is important on a baser, more personal level as well. There are times when we don’t want to tell the truth; usually when something has gone wrong or when we have made a mistake. Lying is a lack of acceptance of this fact and, as such, a refusal to learn and grow from our mistakes. Humans aren’t perfect; we’re all works in progress but the only way we can improve is by acknowledging what went wrong and understanding how we can avoid that mistake in the future. This practice requires us to be honest and truthful not with society but with ourselves. And sometimes this is far harder to do.
There are different levels of truthfulness. There are also two different ways in which we can be dishonest. We can lie and deliberately say something we know to be untrue, or we can elect to not say something even though we know it’s the truth. The second is sometimes referred to as lying by omission. But we are also required to ‘omit’ certain things in day to day conversations. For example, it is not appropriate to say something which is truthful but personal to a relative stranger. These situations require us to judge the context and decide what level of information is appropriate. You’re not being untruthful, exactly, you’re just not sharing all relevant information.
Secrets are another example of when telling the truth might not be the ‘right’ thing to do. If a friend has confided a personal matter to you, it would be wrong of you to share it with others, even if it the ‘truth’. It’s not your truth to share, fundamentally. These complex, context-specific nuances when it comes to being truthful are taught to us from a young age. And it is society’s appreciation and respect for truth which not only encourage us to be truthful but also teach us the value of truth. A society with no trust amongst its members would self-destruct very quickly as survival instincts would descend into a ‘dog-eat-dog’ mentality. Trust, therefore, is fundamental to our modern world.
At the end of the day, I believe you should be true to yourself and true to your personal values. This will mean different things to different readers but I’d like to think that most of the people who have reached the end of this blog believe that being truthful means ensuring you are not hurting others with the truth or lies. Deception for the benefit of oneself or to the detriment of another is something we should all strive to avoid. Innate human selfishness can make this hard at times but if we all work to improve our self-truth, perhaps the world will be just a little bit better.
Go. Do. Experience. More Good Deeds.