Skip to content

Handling truth


Consider this situation. Unbeknownst to you, your main squeeze of 10 years has a 9-year-old child (and not with you). Would you rather know about this or remain in the dark? How about this: your best friend Hates (yes, with a capital H) your favorite cranky old jean jacket. Rather know or not? What about the sexual habits of your children? Though you fancy yourself a fine singer (artist, poet, etc.), most of your friends wish you’d find a new hobby. Want to know the truth or not? That, surprise! your spouse has a serious crush on someone else. That, yes, you look fat in that dress.

Tom Cruise to Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men: I want to know the truth! Nicholson back: You can’t handle the truth!

That sums it up for me. I say I want the truth, but in reality the truth often stinks. My feelings will be hurt if friends tell me no, you really can’t sing. The result is of this truth? I’m likely to stop doing something I enjoy (and FYI, this is decidedly not a true story). It’s one thing if you know you’re a croaker rather than a crooner and your clear inability transforms into a strange kind of pride. But to be told something you’d rather not know, even in love and affection… that’s rough.

Earlier tonight, I watched a CSI NY rerun. This evening’s quasi-pathetic quasi-insane bad guy finds out – with 5 minutes to go – that his brother really did murder that bartender. After years of trying to prove his brother innocent, the evidence finally catches up with him and he crumbles to the floor. Who can blame him? Even if we suspect deep down that the worst might be true, knowing it is a whole different thing, a shifting of our internal tectonic plates.

So back to the 9-year-old kid. What good does it do to know that your lover/spouse/partner couldn’t keep his pants on a decade ago? Things are good between you, the child lives in another state. Do you really want the truth? How will you view your early relationship once this comes to light – and will this new truth feel like a theft of the old one, the one where you were crazy in love from Day 1? Which is the worse violation – thou shalt not covet or thou shalt not steal?

There are many advocates of honesty above all else. You should know – they would argue – the truth about the person you’re in love with. Why? So you can be empowered, make decisions. But we’re not talking about whether you look truly awful in a dress you can change in a matter of moments. We’re talking about something of a whole different magnitude: an unchangeable past and a forever altered future. You didn’t want to leave the relationship – quite the opposite – but now you don’t know if you can stay.

My long ex-husband cheated on me and more than one boyfriend did the same when I thought we had a pact otherwise. In retrospect, I’m glad for the truth about the former (though at the time it wasn’t pleasant), but have mixed feelings about the rest. Okay, it’s good to know that I wasn’t paranoid about the smell of unfamiliar perfume on his clothes, but really, I might have been just fine living with an expertly crafted and gently told lie. It’s unclear. Discretion has its place.

Gang, the truth might set us free, but it also may grieve us beyond imagination. Tonight, as I watched the credits roll on CSI, I wonder: is it so bad to live with a lie you don’t know is a lie?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. emilylhauser permalink
    01/18/2010 5:15 pm

    I tell my kids what I told my now-husband when he was my then-boyfriend: What I expect from you is truth, and kindness. Not necessarily in that order.

    The one has to inform the other. Truth isn’t, really, truth if it is an excuse for cruelty.

    But if I have to choose one or the other — if there is no kind way for me to know the truth — then I’ll choose truth. I need to know where the edges are, what place I’m really in.

    • sue swartz permalink*
      01/18/2010 8:41 pm

      I’d like to believe that I really want to know what place I’m in, but I’m just not sure. My friend Sarah says: if I can’t quite be sure if I want to know, just yet, should I opt not to ask, until I’m sure? That’s probably where I am. If truth uncovers cruelty, no sense getting a full blast of truth unless I can hope to emerge with some shred of self.

  2. Herb Solomon permalink
    01/19/2010 7:18 pm

    Hi Sue: Truth: always in all circumstances? No. But usually in most circumstances? Yes. That’s an acknowledged cop out, but your great query deserves much more consideration than I’m currently willing to invest. Maybe we can discuss it some day, which will provoke me to consider it seriously and comprehensively.

  3. 01/22/2010 10:57 am


    Really appreciate the genuine emotional and psychological depths of your writings, as well as your search for meaning and “truth” in our lives. (Handling Truth)

    From my perspective, the only so-called truth we can even come close to knowing is that which we perceive to be true based on our own limited knowledge, mental capabilities, experiences and insights. Since everyone has to make the decisions relating to their own person, we essentially are all individually responsible for our own truth.

    Are we being true to achieving the highest, most enlightened level of growth we can as it relates to our own existence? This would seem to be that the most important truth that we can ever hope to personally attain while in these corporeal bodies.

    Yet, when placed within the universal perspective of existence, so much of which is far beyond our abilities to comprehend, it is bound to leave us feeling rationally unfulfilled. This is why we explore other healthy avenues of our connection to the EnergyForce of life, in the hopes of increasing our awareness level as to the real “truth” of our existence.

    Shlomo once told a drash of how when people get to the pearly gates that they are shown two films. The first shows the way you lived your life. The second shows what your life could have been. Heaven, he would say, is when both movies are the same. To me, whenever we strive to align these two films in the reality of our lives, we are being true to ourselves in seeking to find our own truth, and this is almost always the best way to “truly” be living our lives.

    Shabbat Shalom!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: