Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Truth

"Truth is a thing immortal and perpetual, and it gives us a beauty that fades not away in time." - Frederick the Great (1712 - 1786)

Why are we not more often people of the Truth?

Always mirey waters to delve in, of course. As Pilate asked of Christ, "What is truth?"

Fine. Let's agree that for (at least) this post we are not going to deal with the discussion of any Great Truths, but just the simple matter of truth - truth between people, truth between friends, truth even to ourselves.

Truth is the simplest yet the hardest thing to engage in. On the one hand, truth is remarkably simple - far simpler than falsehoods. I don't have to create an alternate reality of events, I don't have to remember what I've said to whom, I don't have to really even gild it. May I want to phrase it in such a way that it is understood and/or has the impact that I want? Certainly - we are never allowed to wield truth as flamethrower to the detriment of others, creating a burning apocalypse of relationships as we stand in the center shouting "Behold, I have spoken the truth!"

At the same time, it's the hardest thing. It can be hard for three reasons:

1) To tell the truth I may have to reveal something about myself; what's worse, I may have to reveal something damaging about myself. To tell someone of a truth in which you become vulnerable - either by action or by word - to misunderstanding, attack and ridicule is no easier than standing for the cut you know is coming.

2) To tell the truth I risk losing my relationship with another. While we are not given permission to wantonly destroy the lives of others with truth, nevertheless things happen. Misunderstandings occur. Patterns which we have created over time make it difficult to communicate as we like - which can lead to miscommunication. Sometimes keeping a truth from someone seems to be the only way to preserve the relationship.

3) To tell the truth is to be different. In an age of slick advertising campaigns, of mass marketing and soundbites, of 160 character Tweets and Facebook updates of 20 words, truth is often lost simply because it takes to long to write and requires individuals to ponder and think - not only to receive truth as it is being presented, but to tell it as well. I can easily create a glib answer to the question you're asking; to tell truth may mean I have to think, to ponder, to present it in a way you can hear - and all of this can take place in more than the words we seem to allocate to ourselves to communicate in.

The irony in all of this is we say we want the truth. We demand that our institutions, both governmental and commercial, be completely truthful - yet we seldom if ever apply the same standards to our own lives and behavior. It is too often easier to adopt a holier-than-thou attitude about how others engage in truth than how we fail in it.

The answer? It's a bit embarrassingly simple: start with yourself. Be a person of truth. As Ghandi said, "You must be the change you want to see in the world"; as Benjamin Franklin said, "What you seem to be, be really."

Practice truth. Practice telling the truth - not only with others, but with yourself (we are far less truthful with ourselves than we think!). Hold yourself to the higher standard, the standard of being a true person.

It will be hard. Although the truth can be simple, Ron Askenas has noted "Simple never means easy." Some will be offended. Some will think you're crazy. You'll think you're crazy.

Persevere. Be that truth that Frederick discusses above. I can assure, there is nothing more beautiful, more brilliant, than truth over time. Lies and obfuscations lose their luster, the reasons why we engaged in such behavior will fade over time and be forgotten, the reasons behind those lies will continue to rattle in their graves like the dead trying to rise. The truth will continue to shine like a beacon, lighting the path of not just yourself but of all those around you.

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