During the recent hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, I was struck by how many times I heard people admiringly proclaim, “She spoke her truth.”
Not “the” truth but “her” truth. The inference was that if they’re not the same, we should give priority to whichever truth is amplified by the adjective “her.”
This is the cynical notion that there isn’t such a thing as truth for everybody. It’s often expressed by the lie, “Truth is relative.” That’s a statement that refutes itself. If truth is relative, then saying so is also relative, meaning that we can’t trust the statement to be true all the time.
This is not a single gender thing. In eulogizing a male friend who died in October, Uber executive Angela Padilla declared, “He always spoke his truth. That was the part of him that I loved.” Presumably, she didn’t love him as much when he spoke someone else’s truth. But if truth is truly relative, why should it matter whose it was that he was speaking?
His truth, her truth, their truth, your truth. What a difference an adjective makes! Such choice of words is far more serious than a mere difference of opinion.
One of the telltale signs of moral decline is a careless, cavalier and subjective attitude toward truth. When a people value truth for its own sake and seek to establish and uphold it, then other critical values fall into place: justice, trust, fairness, civility, honor. In court, we swear under oath to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” because neither a good conscience nor a free and civil society will tolerate anything less.
You know that moral decline is underway when truth is seen as a relative thing – pliable and personal, solid not as a rock but as a wind-blown feather. We then actively suppress our consciences and embrace the ephemeral, the frivolous, the temporary advantage, the applause of the mob and the promises of demagogues. When truth ceases to be an ideal and an absolute and becomes just another inconvenience, or when truth is whatever anybody wants it to be because of something else that’s more important to them, disaster is around the corner.
If you’re falsely accused of a crime, whose truth do you want to ultimately prevail – his, hers, theirs or the? If you’re making a false accusation and hope you’ll never be caught, whose truth do you want to ultimately prevail – his, hers, theirs, the, or yours? It makes a difference, doesn’t it?
Perverting the truth into a partial truth or an outright lie is a sure sign of rottenness of character. Run from anyone who fears the truth or opposes the truth, for they can do you no good.
If “your” truth conflicts with “the” truth, you must fix YOU, not the world. No society becomes or remains free if it puts anything higher on life’s pedestal than pure, unadulterated, objective truth.
Think about it. Would you like to live in a society in which we are asked in court, “Do you swear to tell his truth or her truth, some of the truth or everything but the truth?”
I sure don’t. And that’s the truth.
Lawrence W. Reed, a resident of Newnan, is president of the Foundation for Economic Education. He writes about exceptional people, including many from his book, “Real Heroes: Inspiring True Stories of Courage, Character and Conviction.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org