Truth: Let me tell you.


Whoever came up with the expression “the truth hurts” left out a part of that expression. I reckon the full expression should have been “the truth hurts but lies are septic”. Anyone who understands the word septic knows it ain’t pretty. It comes from the word sepsis which is usually used in reference to a wound which has gotten an infection. I can feel my stomach turning at the thought of it because like I said it ain’t pretty. The same thing with our interactions with others where there are lies the wounds that are resultant might as well be septic. They take ever-ever to heal, they hurt to a point of numbness, the festering sore spreads on and if there is no anti-biotic death is a slip away (think slippery slope). Since childhood we have been taught to believe the truth hurts and of course it does. Centuries later there has been plenty of evidence to show that lies hurt more than the truth but no one has coined a phrase about it. I could be mistaken though there might be an expression showing how harmful lies are but it is not in common usage. At this point I hope you are busy opening another tab to google this. Anyway, please do find those expressions about lies and let me know in comments.

The truth is scary, telling it and receiving it. But I think we humans have made it a bit difficult to speak the truth. Let us all trace our steps back to childhood. If you are lucky you grew up in an era where parents were parents (no offence to modern day parents). I mean parents those days were the king and queens of their castles. As you know kings and queens have royal sceptres with which they wield their power. In those days the royal sceptre was nothing fancy with diamonds and gold it was just a big old stick. More to that; as with any kingdom there were a pre-determined set of rules with which people were to live by. As you can now imagine the sceptre was used to enforce those rules. Some of our parents liked the military style of things “do now and ask questions later”. So when mum tells you not to stick your fingers in the sugar jar (read sugar dish) she just wants you to follow that rule. It does not occur to her to give any explanations as to why you shouldn’t stick your fingers in the sugar dish. Though you don’t understand the fuss with nibbling grains of sugar, you knew better than to question it. More to that; you knew the consequences of doing otherwise and so even when you risked it and you got caught you deny, deny, deny (sugar grains around your lips notwithstanding). Why? Because we imagined the consequence of telling the truth would be very severe. So you lie hoping you cleared your tracks well enough, because you think that is the only way you will get away with it.

When I think about this I really wonder if perhaps I got this all wrong. My memory is a little hazy about times in my childhood when I told the truth and there were positive consequences. So I would like to ask you, do you remember ever telling the truth and there being positive consequences of truth telling? Because I know when I lied and I was caught there was hell to pay. A fine example of positive consequences of truth telling is Barack Obama’s election campaign. When he went about his campaign he let it slip and people knew that he was how should I say this, a crack head in his past life. That was very good strategy on his part. He knew leaking the news himself would diffuse any sensationalism and all that other stuff that sells newspapers and tabloid magazines. But on the flip side if he kept the lid on his past transgressions, people would dig and find and it wouldn’t come out like (can’t believe I’m about to say this) a tiny fart; it would be kaboom!

In psychology we learn about reinforcement. A reinforcer is something that increases the likelihood of a behaviour occurring again. In this case I am of the opinion if a parent were to respond reasonably when the child told the truth this would reinforce truth telling making it more likely to occur again. Respond reasonably does not mean you let the child gets away with mischief all willy-nilly. I would say make sure the child knows you appreciate their honesty then make them understand that you are punishing their mischief. You may not be a parent but this information you can use later. However you are in a variety of relationships; the question is how do you respond to truth?

Does your friend, boy/girlfriend/spouse know they can be honest with you or does the idea being honest with you seem like a visit to the dentist: sharp machinery will come out, some drilling without any laughing gas. When people justify telling lies they say I don’t think she/he can handle the truth. Of course that is so overly presumptuous because who’s to say you can’t handle it? But then again people can read signs based on how you behave. How do you handle conflicts? Do you hit the roof, go into a verbal tirade, get defensive, throw objects or withdraw and give a cold shoulder? What I would say is encourage people around you to tell you the truth. For a start let them know the truth is important to you because honesty is the fuel that drives trust. Then when someone tells you a hard hitting truth before you say anything calm down; sometimes the best response is no response at all. If the person has made the kind of confession that has your head throbbing and your eyes searching for sharp objects in the room, give yourself a time out. You can walk away to clear your head or you can tell the person to get out. If you are the bearer of bad news, do respect the person’s decision not to want to share oxygen with you at the time and leave. Though the truth hurts it needs to be confronted. Like a fresh wound after applying pressure to stop the bleeding you need to prod to see how deep the cut is so you know how to administer first aid. So even if it is too much for you that you need to walk away you need to come back (when you are calm) to talk things out to see how the matter can be resolved.

All of the time telling the truth at the earliest opportunity is the best option. Telling the truth early is like a small cut it can be bandaged and it heals quickly. But when a lie is told which needs to be covered for with another lie the cut gets deeper and with time it festers and you know the rest is a gory mess. So folks help people tell you the truth and you tell people the truth.


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