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Do you Know the Truth?

Lying plays an immense part in our lives. When we were little and someone was upset, we were tempted to “make up a story.” The difference between reality and imagination was hard to sort out back then. So telling a story did not seem bad, and it may have taken away our guilt, and delivered us from punishment!

When did you learn to tell the truth? Was there someone who taught you and modeled truth-telling? Does knowing the truth really matter to you?

What is lying? Here’s one definition: intentionally deceiving someone. I find that helpful. Mistakes and ignorance are not lying, but hiding or twisting the truth is.

Before I retired I counselled couples who wanted me to perform their marriage. I always gave them an “Attitude Survey.” One attitude was, “It is okay to tell a little white lie to avoid causing discomfort.” Would you agree or disagree? If you have a partner, how might they answer? This might be an interesting conversation to have with people close to you. Do you tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to those near you? Always?

Some people coming for marriage thought lying was a good way to avoid conflict and discomfort. If we are honest with ourselves, denial (deceiving ourselves) and hiding difficult truths from others are crutches we often lean upon. At the other end of the spectrum, some people think they are always telling THE truth.

I talked with couples about the relationship between truth and trust. When we discover our mate deceiving us it shakes our trust in them. How do I know if you are telling the truth now or just lying again?

Deception, another type of untruth, is a huge issue in relationships, in business, in national and global relationships. It seems to me that numerous national leaders and media presenters feel perfectly free to make up stories without holding themselves to account for truth. Many Americans, after hearing a “story” repeatedly, come to believe it. Undermining truth feels scary to me.

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So I am beginning to wonder, perhaps like Pontius Pilate talking with Jesus, “What is truth?” Realizing my own tendency to deny realities that trouble me, and my desire to proclaim people who disagree with me as wrong, I have come to believe that truth is a complex, dynamic organism.

For example, when something upsets us, there is a powerful urge to find someone to blame. Scapegoating began in the garden of Eden when Adam blamed Eve for his sin of eating God’s forbidden fruit. If we really long to know the truth, it involves exchanging our temptation to pin the tail on a donkey for a wide ranging investigation of ALL the factors that contribute to a problem and maybe facing my own part in them!

In a class about Difficult Conversations, one person reported on a very upsetting family conflict. Everyone was convinced that one individual was the “bad guy.” Then we stopped and tried to identify all the factors that contributed to this problem. Twenty items later we had a vastly wider understanding of truth.

Next time you find yourself thinking of a story you could tell to avoid conflict, maybe you’ll want to ask, “How precious is the truth?

Next time you hear yourself thinking, “I know the truth” you might ask, “What might I learn from the people who see this differently than I do?”

Next time you’re thinking, “She is to blam!” you might ask, “What are all the factors contributing to this situation?”

If we are hungry to know and speak truth with ourselves and others, that may demand a lifelong search that includes curiosity, courage, and humility.

Don’t give up! As Jesus promised, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free!”

Marsh Hudson-Knapp is a member of the Greater Bennington Interfaith Council and Second Congregational Church. It you’d like to chat about truth his email is MRHudsonknapp@gmail.com.


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