I have spent the past while examining the principle of truthfulness in broad strokes. I have explored why it is a moral ideal, and why it is beneficial to society as a whole. But people are brought into alignment with truth on an individual basis, and one of the first truths that we must resolve ourselves to is the truth of who we are. Given that, I am going to shift gears with the rest of this series to examine truth within the self.
And the fact is, probably very few readers had any disagreement with my thesis at the beginning of this series. You probably agreed that only a life founded on truth is truly free. This is the sort of statement that we hear and nod along to without a second thought. Something inside of us just intuitively knows that this is the case.
And yet…if we get truly honest, none of us live in accordance with this principle perfectly, and few of us even try. We say that embracing the hard truths is essential for a stable and thriving life, but then we shirk those hard truths at every turn. We preach principles that we do not abide by and renounce the very behaviors that we do. Lying, cheating, and stealing, though we aver it is wrong to lie, cheat, and steal. We try to hide these shameful behaviors from the world. We try to hide them from ourselves, looking for a distraction any time our conscience tries to show us what we are doing. And then, when a light does manage to shine upon our wrongs we make excuses, brushing them off as inconsequential or permitted due to our circumstance. In short, we are hypocrites all!
The Part That Resonates)
So why do we so readily agree with the statement that we should all live in truth?! Why do we have such an immediate agreement to something in principle, but then a reluctance to agree with it in our practice? I see this phenomenon as the clearest evidence that people are divided beings. Every individual has two parts hidden within, and though they belong to the same person, those parts don’t agree with one another at all.
I feel this dual nature is what Paul was speaking to when he famously wrote “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I” (Romans 7:15). There is a very real part of us that recognizes and responds to truth. That part is most manifest when we hear a nugget of pure wisdom and we intuitively know that it is right, not even requiring any sort of proof. That part of us just knows what is true and it wants to live in harmony with that truth.
But then there is another part that doesn’t fully believe in this concept. Part of us believes that even if truth is the fundamental foundation of the world as a whole, that it can still cheat that system. It thinks that it can fool the world into giving us what we want.
Of course, these two sides are at complete odds to one another. On the one hand we believe that adherence to the truth is the principle by which we obtain all that we desire, on the other hand we also think we can get what we want by trespassing that very same principle.
The part of you that thinks you can prosper by denying your conscience doesn’t like to be examined. When asked why we do the things that we know are wrong, why we advocate for behaviors but then don’t follow them, we tend to squirm beneath the light and try to wriggle away.
But if you are ever to overcome these baser instincts, you’ve got to start taking them head-on. An excellent first step would be to acknowledge that you do exactly the hypocritical sort of behavior that we’ve been examining, and then meditate as to why you do it. Without judgment, ask yourself “why do I think truth is fundamental to happiness, but still shirk from the truth in these certain areas of my life?” At some point we must all contemplate why we do the things that we do. At some point we have got to own up to our inconsistencies. For simply acknowledging our own untruthfulness is the first step towards becoming truthful.