The Distance Between the Truth and a Lie

I am a firm believer in absolute truth. But just because absolute truth exists doesn't mean that the statements that we make to each other, the words that we speak to each other, are absolutely true.

In fact, there is a long stretch of ground between the complete, unabridged, unedited, unrestrained truth... and a lie. In this middle ground is where (most) of our discourse happens. (As long as we aren't outright lying to each other.)

All truth that we share with another human is not the absolute and complete, unabridged truth. It is always, out of necessity and out of our human limitation, the filtered truth.

Voluntary Filtering

The main type of truth filtering that we naturally think of is voluntary filtering. This could be leaving out facts, or not saying anything at all.

The more common type of truth filtering is when we smooth out what we say to each other. If we actually told one other the first thing that pops into our heads when we're in the middle of conversation, we wouldn't have very many friends. And often times, the first things that pop into our heads aren't even what we believe. The brain is a funny and flawed machine.

Involuntary Filtering

But the most common type of truth filtering is the filtering that we do without even thinking about it. If we're relating an event, everything that we're relating is colored and influenced by our perspective of that event--where you were standing, what you were doing, what you noticed.

Our perspective is then sifted through the weight of our past experiences--our biases, our upbringing, our world view, and more.

Finally, when have you ever remembered anything--even something that happened yesterday--in 100% detail, with no error and with nothing omitted? Telling the details of the passing of a minute--one single, solitary minute--in such a way that the truth is unabridged and unaltered in any sense would occupy the course of a day, if it were possible at all!

Asking for Truth

If we ask for the truth and expect to get the unfiltered truth, we'll be sorely disappointed. And if we ask for that, we are fools for thinking that we'd receive otherwise in return.

Emily Dickinsen said, "Tell all the truth, but tell it slant."

I say, we can't tell all the truth.

And what truth we tell, we can't help but tell it slant.

I think the key to her famous quote is to simply help us realize the unavoidable slant of truth in all things.

Photo: Death Valley. Taken by yours truly.