Most of us remember Jack Nicholson uttering this iconic line in “A Few Good Men.” In fact, it won him an Academy Award in 1993. Back then, the truth was an absolute. Now, not so much.
If I’ve learned anything at all from watching cable news, it’s that truth is mostly a perception. And we all have, from time to time, perceived truth differently. Okay, we can probably agree that some truths are absolute (note, I said “probably”). The earth is round, we all eventually die, there are 60 minutes in every hour. Absolute truths.
Why does this matter?
Well, I think it depends on who’s doing the telling and who’s doing the listening. Parents generally do their best to tell kids the truth, yet there’s a difference between telling the truth and telling everything you know. Example: When Jordan (age 5) asked her mom, “where do I come from,” her mom answered “Denver.” It might not have been the answer Jordan was looking for, but it’s still the truth.
Are there only two choices? Tell the truth or tell a lie?
If you’ve ever heard people say “I never lie,” it’s absolutely true that they’re lying. We all lie from time to time. And those lies come at a cost — sometimes to our physical health, and sometimes to our relationships. What happens when we get caught in a lie? We often backpedal, maybe even weaving a bigger lie in the process. In any event, we usually feel ashamed, sheepish, dumb, or worse. And sometimes that last lie you got caught telling can be the tipping point leading to your job termination, your divorce, or the loss of a friend. Regardless of the consequence, you’ll likely either look or feel like an idiot. Or both.
And let’s not forget to mention the pathological liars; people who lie so often that the line becomes permanently blurred, or they have a perfectly acceptable (in their minds) rationalization. There are entire websites devoted to counting the lies that people in power have told. No lie.
It also matters whether you’re lying to your supervisor when you call in sick, or lying to your best friend when you tell her you love her new dress, or lying to the American people.
Despite what you may hear, we all intellectually understand that science depends on the truth. Politics does not. Yet we seem to rely on the stuff we read on the internet, which begs the question, is the internet reliable? Obviously, we all need to take into consideration the source of the information we read online. We also need to decide for ourselves what to believe and what to pass along.
So, before you share that post or meme on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, take a moment to review the source. And then take a moment to think about why you feel the need to share it. If you’re hoping to convince somebody about something, think again. Maybe they can’t handle the truth.