Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

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On Telling The Truth

Tres Sabores, St Helena, California, USA

June 25, 2021

"If you keep saying it the way it really is, eventually your word is law in the universe." ... 
This essay, On Telling The Truth, is the eighth in the octology Truth:
  1. Used By The Truth
  2. Not Truth / Truth
  3. Moment Of Truth
  4. Nobody's Doing It To You Except Yourself: A Study In Truth
  5. Tell Me The Truth
  6. Authentic Truth: The Coca Cola Animals  Incident, And More
  7. Matchbox Cars
  8. On Telling The Truth
in that order.

It was written at the same time as

All good people know it's a good thing to tell the truth. That's part upbringing and (if you've really listened  to Life itself) mostly intuition. Everyone knows it's a good thing to not tell lies (well ... almost  everyone) which is what I learned / was taught at a very early age. I learned that making things up which didn't happen, and then saying them as if  they happened, doesn't fit with what it is to be a good human being. Yet the thing about telling the truth as I learned it, was I didn't know exactly what "the truth" was. If you'd asked me back then to define "the truth", it would have been above my pay grade. What I did know (or assumed to be so) was that telling the truth means there's consistency between / congruency with what really happened, and what I say happened (in practicality, that's good enough for jazz).

Later I began noticing an inexorably widening gap between what really happened, and what I say happened. I don't mean I began telling lies as a matter of course (although in all honesty, I did catch myself bending / embellishing the truth on occasion - kind of like an experiment  to see how far I could push the truth without becoming an abject liar). No, I mean that without being rigorous (which I discovered later in my adult years), there was often a skew  in what I said happened, away from what really happened. I began seeing it in the smallest, supposedly most innocuous statements. And yes, you can gauge your expediency with the truth in the smallest statements - like how you answer the question "How are you?". When it comes to telling the truth, what you say is true ... or it isn't. There's no gray area.

To flesh out the example further, if I ask you "How are you?", you may unhesitatingly answer "Fine" or "OK" or "Well". Does it matter  that such answers aren't always true? It does. How many times do we answer "Fine" or "OK" or "Well" in response to "How are you?" when it's not true? And watch: it's not merely that it's not true: it's that it's become de rigueur  with us to be OK with it when it's not true.

"Fine" or "OK" or "Well" as responses to "How are you?" when they're not true, isn't exactly earth-shattering. But it is remarkable when we consider how expedient we are with the truth, how we've assumed the truth is fudge-able, how we've assumed it's OK to embellish it. Untrue answers to "How are you?" set us up to look good. Indeed most (if not all) of our uttered untruths set us up to look good. By answering untruthfully, I set myself up to look good by masquerading as someone who's OK. There's a pull to being someone who's seen as being OK. We've made it OK to lie in response to that pull. But the way we're then seen, comes at a terrible cost.

There's one thing, next to which lying in response to that pull, pales: being someone who tells the truth, no matter what it is, no matter what it looks like, because it's the truth. That's rare. To do so, is to take a stand. More than that, in the world as we know it, there's scant agreement for this sort of thing. To do so is to look at the gap between what we say as true which isn't really 100% true (like saying "Fine" or "OK" or "Well" in response to "How are you?" especially when both I and my day aren't going well at all). There's a choice to make between being Mr Wonderful  who's always having a great day (ie who always says  he's having a great day) and being someone who tells the truth unflinchingly  ie someone who doesn't stand for the accepted, glossed-over gap between what we say, and what's actually true.

What all this comes down to, is choosing what it's worth being known for: always having a wonderful day euphemistically, or always telling the truth unflinchingly. It's the choice between being inauthentic in order to be popular ... or  ... telling the truth with integrity, no matter how steep it is to do, no matter how unpopular  it may make you. But listen: here's the secret, here are the keys to the kingdom:  you don't tell the truth in order to be popular: you tell the truth in order to tell the truth.

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