There’s a sense that “the truth” is where we all want to get to, that it’s the essence of all that is good, the pinnacle, the be all and end all. We’re taught as children to always tell the truth. We’re told as adults we should live our truth.
If my life were to have a theme over the last year it would be truth, pure and simple. And despite how great we’re told the truth is, like Lizzo says, the truth hurts. Friends, family, partners; I found work to be done everywhere to make truth a more standard element of every relationship – some more than others. Here’s some (possibly incoherent) thoughts I’ve had about it all.
In a very scientific Instagram poll I conducted, I discovered that 91% of people said they would choose truth over comfort. But when the question was reframed to specifically call out that the truth could cause discomfort, only 73% still chose truth. Am I surprised some people would choose comfort over truth? No.
Why is truth so hard? Is it because it can actually be the source of a whole lot of hurt? Is it because it can require such a depth of self examination and acceptance that it’s easier to shirk it? The truth can cause us to have to examine ourselves in ways that are possibly uncomfortable. Sitting with our truths can mean tapping into our past, our flaws, our triggers, our core values, our true wants, and oftentimes we can have created more easy to digest narratives for our own comfort. Getting closer to the truth can be a little uglier than we’d like and that’s just us and our own truths.
Asking others to accept our truths, could no doubt be where the phrase “an inconvenient truth” came from. Not only do we have to be comfortable with it but we also have to ask that someone else get comfortable with it. And in the same way people can only love you as deeply as they love themselves, people can only meet you as truthfully as they’ve met themselves. If they are unwilling to look their own truth in the eye, you cannot ask them to look at yours. No matter how comfortable you may try to make that for them.
If you’ve put comfort aside and chosen to go with your truth – what happens when your truth isn’t accepted? Does it diminish its validity? How easily can it shake your own belief in your truth? What do you do when you put your truth out there and it’s rejected? Is it like a tree falling in a forest that no one sees? If no one accepts your truth does it mean it doesn’t exist?
On the other hand, if truth is your north star, how do you reconcile relationships where truth isn’t forthcoming? Is there a point at which you can accept that, and carry on regardless, knowing that you’re living in a fabricated reality? That maybe the other party is trying to save you, trying to keep you in comfort? Is that a choice they’re allowed to make?
Then there are those times you get the truth – be it willingly or forcefully – and it can upend your entire life. Was it the truth or was it the person that caused the harm? Are we able to dissociate between the two? Which was it that caused the pain – the person or the truth? Is the person their truth? And is there ever a time it’s better to bury your head in the sand? Choosing your own comfort over their truth. Or even over your own truth?
It brings up the subject of what is the value of truth, and when does the value of truth offer diminishing returns? Is it a truth versus comfort balance scale? Where truth is only valuable if it’s comfortable? Do we get to decide at some point that we don’t want the truth, that we’re happy to live in denial? Is that a legitimate way to live?
People’s unwillingness to accept truth when it’s inconvenient, people’s inability to give it when it reflects poorly on them, or the complete absence of truth amidst chaos – sometimes it’s like finding a needle in a haystack. And in those times we have to know just how highly we value truth, and the lengths we’ll go to for it.
The truth has hurt. A lot. But for me it’s truth over everything. Always.
My next book is a true story of the last year of my life, but at its core is the deep rooted theme of truth.