What is truth?
Is it what we observe, sense, feel and think it to be?
Whatever we perceive as our experience is through a conditioned lens colored and clouded by the faith and culture we are brought up in. The mind map we create of any experience is not the reality of that experience, merely an illusion of our perception. All conflicts arise out of believing our perceptions to be true.
When we listen and respond to family, friends, colleagues, employees, customers, clients, and patients, we react and respond to the map in our minds and not to the territory the other is in. Truth is not about what we perceive it to be, but the reality of what would benefit us all and the ecosystem viewed objectively through the integration of multiple perspectives.
Is it truth if a surgeon tells a patient that death is nigh given the diagnosis? What do any of us know about the certainty of death? Would the news be a self-fulfilling prophecy committing the surgeon to murder?
Over 90 years ago, an American businessman thought of a way to act to save his company from bankruptcy that was adopted by the Rotary Club as it’s Four-Way test of what all its members need to consider before they think, say and do.
- Is it the TRUTH?
- Is it FAIR to all concerned?
- Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
- Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
Not only has this ethical code stood the test of time, but it has also been adopted by others and in my belief needs to be practiced by all coaches in line with the Carl Roger’s code of unconditional positive regard to clients.
In later years, Byron Katie in ‘The Work’ advises us to ask when we have difficult thoughts
- Is that thought true?
- Can you absolutely know it’s true?
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without that thought?
Anyone who has practiced this would know its value. It takes the Rotary 4-way test to another level of self-awareness.
Both the Rotarian test and Katie’s work have substantive support from ancient scriptural wisdom.
Buddha’s noble truth of the eightfold path of right practices to end craving and suffering starts with the right view and right intention, placing ‘what is right’ to be far more important than ‘what ought to be’ right.
The concepts of ‘dharma’ and ‘karma’ in the Hindu religion follow the central theme of a formless eternal truth that is beyond the mind-body senses matter into an energy space, which has not one but zillions of pathways leading to it.
Yoga prescribes non-violence in what one thinks, speaks and does as equal to the truth of what ‘is’. If what one thinks, utters or does believing it to be true, and it hurts another, it is a lie, a cruel lie, which is why Bob Dylan sang, ‘All the truth in this world adds up to one big lie.’
Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’. How many Christians are willing to be crucified to follow the way and truth of Jesus, instead of trying to crucify others for not following their truth? Islam too links truth and falsehood to intent rather than perception.
Truth in its essence is about humaneness. It is not about right and wrong, ethics and morals, laws and punishment. It is about compassion and love, about nurturing, healing and sustaining. In our age of dystopia, the concept is perhaps utopian.