Is truth overrated?




Need more fingers. Can’t count anymore how many times I wished I recorded a disagreement with my wife. It’s always the same: Whatever the argument, the subject quickly changes to WHO started it, who’s the bad guy. We’re talking minutes here. After twenty sentences Wife and I have opposing memories and we’re both convinced we have the monopoly on THE truth and THE facts. If I were as mature as the advice I blog about, I’d re-read my own posts where I expound:

We all carry our own truths and indubitably believe them.

Rarely do people agree about anything, unless they agree to agree. And when they do that they stick together as best friends forever, marriage mates, golf buddies, political parties or whatever else there is that makes a consensus of two or more before the group breaks up again….over heated disagreements.

People disagree even with themselves. Politicians, business leaders and serial killers quite often deny earlier deeds and words, even when videos or sound recordings prove they’re lying now. And then of course they make up stuff that didn’t happen at all and swear it’s true as well.

I understand why people lie and even why so many people choose to believe those lies. It happens with counties, clubs and couples. Everybody’s got a different story and everybody’s stickin’ to it because it feels more secure that way, lying makes life easier or there’s an advantage involved. And so the world muddles along repeating the same mistakes as it denies its own past. In spite of that, civilizations grow creating new and exciting things. Somewhere, someone is thinking, “Maybe I can make a positive change.” And somewhere else someone’s saying, “Fuck Change. I want it the way it was.”

As a global village, we can’t even agree on progress.

Same with truth. When it comes to accepting fact as fact, which changes as people and events change, some of us use truth to build trust while some lie to fake trust. Lying gets people into trouble but lots of times it doesn’t. There’s no right and wrong about sincerely believing something is true when it isn’t, but too many times people lie about truth for deception and manipulation. I think that’s wrong. Yet I can also argue that under certain circumstances, telling the truth would be damaging or ineffective. Any lie can be rationalized and is.

So who are we kidding? Does anyone really trust anyone to tell the truth all the time? Of course not. And when “truth” actually IS honestly conveyed, it’s not necessarily OUR truth.

There are six categories of TRUTH.truth_in_dictionary

  1. TRUTH that is always true.
  2. TRUTH that is true but not all the time.
  3. TRUTH that cannot be disputed.
  4. TRUTH that cannot be disputed but is disputed.
  5. TRUTH that is true for ME but not true for YOU.
  6. TRUTH that is true for YOU but not true for ME.

Truth is a moving target and it’s hard to figure out what TRUTH to trust, and when.


When I told my wife the subject of this post, she rhetorically asked, “When does agreeing on truth really matter?”

She nailed it. How much truth, how many established facts, how much agreement about those facts do we need to improve our lives, keep well and get along?

Improvement, staying improved and staying improved together is a big order, because agreeing on any TRUTH, whether it’s real or not, will not necessarily make the world nicer and better. Wars are always fought for “Right and Just” reasons with all groups believing their True Beliefs are the only true beliefs. Know of any winners with this?

I slept through college Philosophy 101 but I’m sure these questions came up. Is there any ULTIMATE TRUTH? And if there is, will we all agree it’s a good TRUTH and keep it that way?

gavel_lawI now know the answers and they’re NO. When it comes to nations, states, cities, big business and even courts of law with juries, we can’t stop prevailing Truth from wandering out of agreements. Real facts are argued, debated and closed with reluctant but final acceptance. Then those verdicts, treaties, contracts, handshakes and promises are broken, or at the very least corrupted around the edges. Happens all the time and we’re all putting up with those social breakdowns. Sure, we still want “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” but we don’t expect it. Guilty-until-proven-innocent is really the way we think.

Thank Heaven for you few Optimists. You still believe human nature has a chance to survive. You still have hope we can all get along. You still envision lasting agreements. Let me know when that happens.


So we’re back to the set-up: When does agreeing on truth really matter? More importantly: Does the “truth” have to be true, or just a premise from which to work?

Science wants true truths and it has oodles of facts and models that keep Truth in place, until great thinkers investigate the super big and really small. Then the very existence of the teeniest of particles, the biggest stars, and all that stuff hidden in black holes gets pretty iffy. Generally though, in our human oriented world, laws of physics apply all the time and we use those constants to do everything. We accept Newton’s Laws of Motion because we’ve learned how long it takes to brake our car to avoid a crash. Inertia isn’t disputed. We all believe it, like we accept gravity.

However, we do NOT need to believe that our planet is 4.5 billion years old to drive and brake for racing dogs. When considering the age of our universe, creationists have their own ideas as they still steer clear knights_crusadesof accidents. Their version of truth, which is agreed upon within their own crowd, does not inhibit their personal survival. For most of you reading this blog, the majority of your TRUTHS; religious, political, historical, whatever, don’t affect your capacity to get through the day, or mine. So unless you’re willing to kill infidels to spread your TRUTHS, what you personally believe isn’t harmful. And consequently, your private Truth doesn’t really matter to anyone else but you.

I’m sorry dear religious and political missionaries, maybe I insulted you. But disinterested ears will not hear your message. Besides that…

There is no one-size-fits-all grand truth.


That said, here’s the wrap-up.

There’s no Grand Truth but there are two BELIEFS all of us share. The one that you choose shapes all your thinking, everything you do and everything that happens to you. If that weren’t important enough, these two beliefs swim unpredictably within those six conflicting categories of truth I listed earlier.

This is what you believe, all the time or some of the time:

  1. There are substantial reasons to be afraid.
  2. There are substantial reasons to feel safe.

Since you believe #1 and/or #2 (whether it’s true or not), you’re going to find someone else who agrees with you. That matters a lot, especially within marriage and friendships. If you’re a couple, a group or a nation, it also matters that there’s disagreement about these two presumptions. It’s really, really important to know, for a fact, when and if #1 or #2 are correct. Your life depends on your search.

Are unwarranted fears or a false sense of security determining your decisions?

Okay, you say you know about uncertainty and life’s variables. But are you still overly relying on reflexive old brain instincts and assume you’ve got it figured out? When it comes to more of those indubitable “Fundamental Truths” do you agree that…

truth_on_girl_handsThey’re out to get me.

They want what’s mine and will take it if I let them.

There’s always more than enough to go around.

People are basically good, with exceptions.

People are basically bad, with exceptions.

Things will generally work out.

Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

It will never happen any time soon.

They’re much different than us.

Everyone should believe in God…our God.

Certain races are more intelligent that others.

Poor people are poor because they’re lazy.

All rich people are greedy.

All politicians are corrupt.

All government employees work less for more money – my tax money.

You can never trust a lawyer, even if you’re one yourself.

The rich have more privileges. (Okay, this one IS a Grand Truth.)

Everyone can make it an America. (This one isn’t.)



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  1. Jerry's Cousin says:

    Yep! Truth is in the mind of the beholder. We all have a different view of the “truth”. I really never gave truth as much thought as you just did.
    Thanks, Irv. Now you’ve got me thinking!

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      My mother and aunt (in their eighties and nineties) have been talking recently about Israel and they both stated “facts” about that country and its relationship the other countries and certain famous organizations. Their beliefs, which they both had carried for years, didn’t ring true for me and so I did a fact check on the internet. Sure enough, both women had been told told false information which had shaped their thinking for years about morally just causes they thought were Israel’s enemy but were actually the opposite. Frankly I was quite disturbed to discover that my mom and aunt had been “infected” with severe confusion, whether it was spread intentionally or not.

  1. How Much of You is Just for You? | Irving’s Journey -- The Psychology of Writing says:

    […] Rule # 1, as I wrote in my post, Is Truth Overrated?, we realize telling the truth doesn’t help much anymore. First, not many people believe the truth […]

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