There are differing claims on such questions as what constitutes truth; what things are truthbearers capable of being true or false; how to define and identify truth; the roles that revealed and acquired knowledge play; and whether truth is subjective, relative, objective, or absolute.When you watch a show that has a person being sworn "to tell the truth," you see (at least in this country) somebody raise his or her right hand, look sincere, and swear to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." What does that mean?
When I was young, I thought it was a simple thing, to tell the truth, but then I realized that what I thought was the truth was not the same thing my mother meant. Or what my teachers meant. What has brought the idea of this post to me is the realization that I spend a fair amount of my time trying to figure out what truth, beauty, and goodness really are. I want to be good, to be truthful, but I'm not motivated by the same desire at all times. I also want to make people feel good about me, about what I say to them. Sometimes I might think about saying something to a friend but think it might be seen as being unkind, so I don't say it.
When I was a young woman, I believed that I was compelled to "tell the truth" no matter what. If a friend was wearing a dress that was unflattering, I would tell her so. If one of my classmates did something I thought was wrong, I would confront him or her. This trait of mine was noticed and commented on throughout the years I was growing up, and I remember very well being proud of my adherence to the "truth." I felt I was better and braver than those who kept silent.
The real truth, as I know now, is that I wasn't telling anybody's truth but my own. I was a pretty self-centered young adult who had learned through my life experiences that I could make other people feel that I was smarter than they were, that I was the final arbiter of what was right and true. Little did I know that I was deluding myself.
When I was in my thirties, I was confronted by a close friend about this conceit of mine, and I didn't believe him, at first. Then as time went by, I allowed myself to absorb his message and other related events that had happened to me during my earlier years. Slowly, imperceptibly, the message began to filter into my consciousness. I realized, reluctantly, that what I had considered one of my strengths was my greatest weakness: that I what I considered "constructive criticism" was disguised one-upmanship, my attempt to gain superiority over another.
I lost many friends when I was young for that reason, and it only filtered into my consciousness slowly that the reason I needed to feel superior to others was a deep inferiority complex that permeated my existence. I saw myself only as I wanted to see myself, and I didn't listen to other well-meaning friends who tried to tell me that my desire to mete out brutal honesty had nothing to do with truth.
Discovering religion and the concept of forgiveness gently filtered into my mind, my soul, over the years. I began to think maybe I wasn't so bad for having been so thoughtless to others, but that I just didn't know any better. I realized, not all at once, that I am just a plain old flawed human being who meant well.
It wasn't until I was in my middle years that I allowed myself to be who I really am. When I met Smart Guy I was fifty, and our relationship put the final chink in the armor I had wrapped myself in, and I think that now, today, in my late sixties, I am a pretty authentic person. Today I now see young people caught in the same trap I fell into long ago, and I hope that they will one day realize that we are all capable of change, to grow from seeing ourselves as better than, or less than, our fellow travelers on the journey of life.
And today I also believe, with all my heart, that on the day I get ready to cross over to the Other Side, I will know Truth in all its glory.