It’s a phrase I hear a lot; “The truth is…” It starts a seemingly never-ending number of sentences. It seems to be a particularly popular phrase in the endless hours of business training I listen to. (Ahem, it is progress not perfection – my training addiction still seems quite well and healthy!)
It is such a comforting thought, that by putting these three words at the beginning of a sentence, all that follows says all that is ever needed to be said on that subject. It’s what we all want, right? Certainty!
As it jarred on me, I was listening for what followed, weighing it up and thinking “is that the truth? As in the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” Generally each phrase that followed would fail in some way.
Usually it was true in some sense, but not ALL senses. Truth is, as the saying goes, a relative concept. Sometimes I might not agree at all.
I pondered on why it jarred with me, and then I thought – I like uncertainty. I like keeping my options open seeing all sides of the story, even the mutually exclusive ones, and holding them all in mind as being facets of the truth.
I was discussing with a not for profit colleague recently about the experience of being asked for media comment. Inevitably their request can boil down to a yes/no right/wrong – he’s a monster/ he’s innocent or similar soundbite. Providing a holistic, truthful answer leaves the reporter glazed eyed and moving onto the next social commentator who will keep the biffo rolling and ensure paper sales.
On the other hand, being a great teacher can require you at times to simplify the truth into a concept that people can grasp. Then, as their understanding expands, you can put in another building block of the picture, and even if it is contradictory it will not necessarily confuse or demoralise the learner.
So what’s best, simple truth for clarity? Or complicated, nuanced truth for completeness? The truth is, I just don’t know!