According to a famous Buddhist quote, “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” Yet, at some point in our lives we’ve all been in possession of some morsel of truth that we’ve chosen not to divulge because we were uncertain how it would be received, interpreted or used against us by others.
History has produced abundant maxims regarding truth. For example, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius’ advice to his son Laertes is, “This above all: to thine own self be true… thou canst not then be false to any man.” Former English Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill remarked, “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.” Celebrated author Maxim Gorky argued, “To speak the truth is the most difficult of all arts, for in its ‘pure’ form, not connected with the interests of individuals, groups, classes, or nations….” English writer and poet Walter Savage Landor mused, “Truth, like the juice of the poppy, in small quantities, calms men; in larger, heats and irritates them, and is attended by fatal consequences in its excess.” And feminist Gloria Steinem is well-known for her pithy quip, “The truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off” (which just so happens to be the inspiration for this article).
What is Truth?
Scientifically, truth is based on evidence or reason. Nonetheless, one can argue that truth is a subjective term that is based on individual feelings, opinions and experiences. Whether you view it from a scientific or subjective position, there is a fundamental truth that lies at the core of each human being that cannot be escaped or ignored in our attempt to reach higher ground.
While truth is considered by some a path to freedom, it is by no means a linear path. There are many confusing and conflicting hairpin turns along the way. Because it can threaten our very sense of reality, it’s not surprising that many people would rather evade truth and cling to self-constructed illusions.
Reasons We Bury the Truth
Telling the truth can produce tremendous discomfort, not to mention its inherent – real or perceived – consequences. Here are three reasons why we prefer to bury the truth:
1. Inner Conflict. Inner conflict is a psychological struggle. When truth invites us to examine aspects of ourselves and challenge our beliefs, assumptions and ideologies, it creates an internal war that leaves us with difficult choices, wondering which path to take. Oftentimes, we choose the path of least resistance.
2. Escape. Not having to face the truth means we can ignore – at least temporarily – our problems. We can continue to operate within a false realm of reality to avoid dealing with unpleasant people, events and situations.
3. Fear. Facing the truth is a scary thing that has the potential of taking us places we’d rather not go. Fundamentally, we all have insecurities about who we are, how we present to others, and what we are capable of achieving. Yet, we have an idealized self and live our lives based on that idealization. The revelations of truth can quickly deconstruct any false notions or appearances that we are trying to uphold. To uncover the truth of our core being would unravel the defenses we have stitched together to protect our vulnerabilities.
Using Anger as a Mask
We have elaborate ways of hiding the truth. Our reasons are varied and not always understood. Yet, regardless of our chosen defenses, the emotion that we most openly and frequently express when confronted with truth is: anger. This is because anger is considered a normal, human emotion that is easy to identify with. It’s also a powerful emotion, ranging in intensity that keeps others at a distance when we’re feeling most vulnerable.
Evading the truth is emotionally, psychologically, and physically damaging. While introspection can be a painful and uncomfortable process, there is no long-term escape from internal truth. Facing your truth is the first step in self-accountability and self-improvement. Whatever that truth is and once you own it, you will feel better about yourself, enjoy a more meaningful existence, and walk more confidently in your life’s purpose.
Until Next Time,