The harder truths welcome us to adulthood. We have to find a way to pay the bills, to work with bosses and co-workers who see the world differently than we do and some of us get interesting neighbors.
These are the truths that we handle. We go to work, we play by the rules of society and we deal with the consequences when we do not.
But some truths make us feel uncomfortable. These truths typically come to our attention when the rules are murky and we have no one to ask for advice.
Take, for example, a situation where one is a witness to a crime. The rules of society urge us to report the activity to the police, and I am sure most people do so. But what if the police are involved in the crime, or one’s employer? The consequences of acting approach the consequences of not doing so.
Let’s say the witness to the crime is an advisor to a candidate for high office. And the witness sees the candidate involved in illegal campaign contributions and falsifying campaign finance reports.
The witness now has several factors to consider: Do I tell anyone? Who would I tell? How badly will I be harming the campaign (that the witness otherwise believes in)? Whom could I ask for advice who won’t tell the candidate? Can I tell an authority this information anonymously? If my name is given to the candidate by the person I tell, will I be fired? Will I then be able to get another job?
The truth of what happened here is indisputable. The truth of what to do about it is far more complex.
Some accounts of the truth depend upon the teller. People who have much to lose typically show no interest in giving the whole story about what they know.
A man goes to a workshop entitled “Finding the Truth.” He listens to the lecturer drone on and on about a number of different topics. Afterward, he decides to approach the lecturer and ask him, “What is the truth?”
“The truth reveals itself every day.”
Puzzled by this response, the man asked others attending the class what the truth was. They replied that “the truth is as the professor says.”
Frustrated, he went to the cashier’s booth to ask for his money back. The cashier looked at him and asked why.
“I didn’t get my money’s worth about finding the truth!”
“The truth is that if you walk away now, you will lose your opportunity to join the elite club.”
The lecturer, the other attendees and the cashier all told the truth, but simply failed to mention one fact to the man: they were involved in a pyramid scheme.
So some truths do not dare speak their name. And some questions with certain individuals will be completely ineffective. For example, if you ask a devout Christian whether the Resurrection took place, do you really think their answer will be anything but affirmative?
Getting the truth about any topic of interest rarely involves one question. The witness to the campaign crime cannot determine the best approach without going through a series of questions like the one described.
And some questions are misplaced. The man who attended the lecture could have asked the professor what the lecture had to do with finding the truth. And one could ask a devout Christian why they believe in the Resurrection.
Setting the truth free involves going through the circumstances around it and then picking a set of questions that pinpoint what one needs to know.