Facts, Truth, and Honesty: Wisdom is Knowing the Difference

Here is a question for you to ponder – does absolute truth exist? Is there one story in every situation that transcends the others and is an accurate representation? If that exists, would that be known as the truth, or would it be the facts? And when someone claims to be explaining the truth and says they are honest, are they sharing the absolute truth or facts? Or their own version of the truth?

The Truth About The Truth

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what the idea of truth really means – and the notion that I have a hard time believing  anyone who says, “here is the truth” or “let me be honest.”  And that is because all of our “truths” are ultimately formed by our perceptions and our own sense of reality. Our honesty is how we truly feel about a situation, which creates that version of the truth we share with others.

Here is a hypothetical example. 

Let’s say I post an article stating the most recent statistics and numbers about the COVID-19 pandemic without any commentary. You read the article. Your human instinct is to use your previous knowledge and experience to process the data and make sense of it. Because you have a family member who contracted the virus, you have first-hand experience with the virus, the effects, and believe that it is 100 percent real. After reading the data, you respond by reposting and pleading for others to wear their masks.

A second person reads the article. Again, that person uses their own experiences to extract meaning from the article. Since he/she has no direct experience with the virus and remains skeptical of its existence and questions how it is spread, they comment on the post with facts about how the number of infections and deaths are similar to other causes of sickness and death in Americans.

Neither of these opinions or actions is wrong. And neither is an absolute truth. Instead, the reactions are the reality of the individual based on their own experiences and perceptions. 

Now, let’s add another layer. A third person reads the article and reshares. In the shared post, the commentary includes a rant about how the data is wrong and that the media is skewing the facts to create fear. The individual tells others who believe the virus is a threat is misled and flat-out wrong. Those who are scared should stop being sheep and are likely “dumb Dems” who want to see “sleepy Joe” die in office.

Your Opinion vs. the Truth

While the first two individuals shared their own thoughts, they did not necessarily try to prove that their viewpoint was the absolute truth. They shared a version of their own beliefs. The third person took it a step further and told others that they are wrong and that what he/she believed is “the truth.”

In today’s world of the 24/7 news cycle and our struggle of being inundated with information from far too many sources – educated and uneducated – we may be struggling to find the absolute truth to make our decisions. This – in addition to the other challenges of dealing with a global pandemic – is likely why we are having a hard time processing everything and are seeking the best, possible truth we can find.

In My Humble Opinion

So what should we do? The most important thing we can and should do is keep talking. We should keep discussing issues and share our opinions in a constructive format without placing blame, name-calling, or shaming. When people are generally concerned about appearing to share “truths” when the validity of the information is still in question, they often use the disclaimer “IMHO” meaning, in my humble opinion. This invites conversation. It shows that the author of the statement is open to discussing and doesn’t claim to be stating an absolute truth, but only their own “truth” and their opinion. 

In a world of a lot of words, it is our own responsibility to apply our critical thinking skills to sift through the junk and find the golden nuggets of useable information. 

As I say, “Fact, truth, and honesty are three completely different things. Wisdom is knowing the difference.”

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