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The downside of seeking … and speaking … the truth

I’ve always prided myself on being a truth-seeker, if not always a truth-speaker. I’ve written about truth and lies and integrity to the point of possible tedium for some of my readers, and to the certain fatigue of some of my friends and family who must, I’m sure at times, find my mini-obsession to be alternatingly, perhaps aggravatingly, naïve and grandiose.

I’ve written about my own shortcomings … my own struggles to be truthful in even the smallest of ways and my keen frustration when I’m not and when others around me are not. I’ve never pretended to be thoroughly successful at living a life of even remotely-perfect integrity; all I’ve been able to claim is that I keep getting back up on the horse whenever I, or anyone else, buck(s) me off of my quest.

Though I try not to hold others to the same, rather excruciating standard to which I try to hold myself, I do, in general, dislike to hang around people who aren’t at least committed to a modicum of decent living — which for me means living and speaking honorably, compassionately, and truthfully, and owning up to it when you don’t.

That’s the hard part, huh? Owning up to it?

Especially when nobody knows you’ve even faltered?

And this brings me to the reason for this column tonight. To take myself to task because there’s no one to do it for me.

I made a mistake. A mistake I’m not sure I can do anything about. A mistake not of malice, but of lack of consideration.

I’m a bit floored by my mistake — though I hate the word because it seems to imply something beyond my control — but it was truly and simply a very unintentional mistake. But one, with all my smarts, and I admit to having a few, I should have avoided.

I do try to live carefully, wisely, considerately to and for myself and others. For my readers, I assiduously check and recheck things I write about. For my backyard birds, I wash and rewash the much-used birdbath. For my family and friends, I try to give kindness in equal measure with the sometimes brutal way I share my thoughts with them.

Despite my near-daily examination of my own behavior and words … despite my navel-gazing for self-serving motivations or half-truths even in such mundane contexts as whether I’m free to go on a walk with someone … despite all that … still, I managed to, excuse my language, royally fuck up.

And as much as I’d like to write that it was for reasons beyond my control, I cannot. That’s why the very word “mistake” rankles in my bones.

Because I believe we all have control of our actions, just as much as we have of our words. I can’t cop to being dumb. I can only cop to being careless. And that is far more difficult to stomach.

Look, I didn’t break any law or commit an egregious sin, but I was sloppy about something. Sloppy with something that mattered. Sloppy when I didn’t have to be.

And there’s the rub. I’ve got resources to read, people to consult, a lifetime of studying Thoreau, Machiavelli, and Shakespeare, and enough studies in journalism, philosophy, French, and physics to know that the most essential aspect of seeking … and speaking … the truth — in any language, in any context — is to verify and confirm what we think we know the truth to be. Verify and confirm.

Whether regarding one’s true motivations for speaking a truth, someone else’s marital status, or simply plumbing the depths of what’s in your own heart … an unverified life is akin to an unexamined one. There’s really no excuse for either.

What I’ve learned over the past few days is this: there can be no better use of one’s time, heart, and intellect than to scrupulously, rigorously, almost relentlessly, on all matters great and small, private or public, strive to know the truth, reach for the truth behind the truth, and speak only after carefully considering all angles of what you’ve determined the truth to be … about anything.

I can’t, at least not in this column, go into the specifics of my mistake, my poor thinking, my equally poor behavior, but if I can, appropriately, in the future, I will. Because I think it’s important. The truth, that is. And the application of the essential hope that is found in admitting when one has been wrong.

In the meantime, I offer this column up as I do most of my writing — it’s my attempt to get at the truth.

Even if it’s an ugly truth about myself.

Posted on February 26th, 2009Comments RSS Feed
2 Responses to The downside of seeking … and speaking … the truth
  1. “Truth” is not so black and white when it comes to us, human beings. One man’s truth is another man’s half-truth or even a lie. Even with all the resources available to you, there’s frequently the unavailable with which you have no access to and thereby will not be able to arrive at the “Truth”.

    It’s most often just a matter of perception.

  2. Very well said John!


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