I reject your reality and substitute my own.
The truth is rarely pure and never simple.
The truth can be elusive.
Some believe that there are many factors that influence how we interpret what is or isn’t true, including our values, experiences, culture, and condition.
Our truth may not be the same as someone else’s truth. Each of us has our own reality based on what brought us to where we are in our lives and how we see the world.
When the truth of two different people is revealed as different, it can seem as if one or the other person is intentionally obscuring the truth (aka lying). Of course, some people do tend to give truth (even their own truth) a wide berth. So how can we tell if people are misrepresenting what they believe to be true, or if their reality just differs from our reality?
“But wait!” you say. “The truth is the truth.”
“Isn’t truth based on facts? If something is subject to interpretation, isn’t that an opinion?”
There are many theories that describe the concept of truth. One of the most popular (among philosophers) is based on the relationship between thoughts or statements and an objective reality. Another theory judges something to be true if it makes logical sense. In another theory, the truth is based on social evolution that results in commonly accepted knowledge, and that truth is culturally specific. Still another states that the truth is what most people believe to be true.
So what can we conclude from all this—that philosophers are silly people?
Well… yes, but to me, the truth is a combination of all these elements, and a little bit more. The truth—our truth—is something we know in our hearts.
What do you know to be true? What are the set of truths that are most important in your life?
Truth as a concept can also be affected by the vehicle by which we convey it—language.
For those of us for whom communication is part of our jobs, the truth can be a moving target. Each of us has an agenda—something we want to accomplish through what we communicate.
Our goal may be to affect behavior, it may be to convince people about a set of circumstances, or it may be something as simple as making our bosses happy. These elements of our communication will influence what we include, what we exclude, our descriptions, our emphasis—all of these can alter how we portray what is true.
So are we being “true to the truth”? Maybe, or maybe not. Any of us who have ever tried to affect changes in the world know that we can be more effective by using “selective truth.” We may not be lying, but we are including, excluding, describing, and emphasizing based on what we hope to achieve.
Is this a bad thing? That is for each of us to decide.
Sometimes little excursions from the truth can be very good things. We all have been in situations in which the whole truth can have negative consequences. But it can be a very short trip from here to persuasion to manipulation.
Each of us has our own relationship to the truth. Some are very strict about being truthful, some deviate from the truth for the greater good, and for some, the truth is not very important.
We may not always be truthful with the rest of the world, but we should always be truthful with ourselves.
Especially when it comes to our own relationship to the truth.