Truth is important. We trust people who tell the truth, we recognize some truths as relative, and we know the truth can effect how people behave. It is powerful.
We live in an era where the truth appears to be irrelevant. People say whatever they want to say and figure if they repeat it enough it will take hold. Unfortunately, that works more often than I care to think about.
Why Ignore The Truth?
We all see the stress and polarization in our society. There has been a lot of societal change, and we experience the effects of the perhaps inevitable pushback. Some people adapt to change quickly, and some take longer to adjust and need time to find a new normal for themselves. As they fight for control, over themselves and others, some of them succumb to the power of words and disregard the truth of their words.
Some people abuse truth intentionally to try to control others. Such behavior leads to a number of problems. Listeners do well to look behind the words and see the need to control.
Everyone knows fear motivates; we see it used regularly in marketing, politics and many other areas of our lives. People use fear to try to persuade others to follow them.
In addition to control and fear, some people bend or break the truth simply for fun. Some of these are ridiculous. For example, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were developed to test just how outrageous the producers could be and still sell their movies. It worked. Since then, people have promoted increasingly ridiculous ideas not just in entertainment, but other areas as well. Remember Pizzagate? We generally refer to these stories not as lies, but as fake news.
The Cost Of Untruth
Ignoring the truth always has an associated cost.
Individuals pay a price. If you ignore the truth, people begin to question your integrity. People lose their trust in you. You can find opportunities blocked. At the societal level, many people struggle to stay calm and at peace in this time of increased fake news and polarization.
Society pays a high price. We have only to think about the 2016 election to realize how divisive the fake news and lack of truth became. Our society will be paying the price for a long time. And Pizzagate, a fake story that still “has legs”, resulted in a very real shooting.
What Can You Do?
The amount of fake news, untruths and other distortions has the potential to pull down our society if good people don’t speak up. You have options:
- When speaking, make sure you verify the accuracy of what you say. Once your words go out, they can live for a long time. This applies to the small truths of your life as well as the larger “fake news”.
- When reading stories, take the time to verify the accuracy before buying in to any claims that might seem specious. This takes time, but can save you credibility in the long run.
- Call out people who repeat untrue stories and “facts”. Hold them accountable for the damage they cause.
- Recognize when something might be true for other people even if not for you. Our different live experiences make this possible. Try to understand others’ truths, and accept their views as valid for them. Understanding them does not mean you agree.
The Bottom Line
Society depends on a level of civility and respect for survival. When the truth becomes irrelevant, it creates untold problems. Be part of the solution, not the problem.
Note: Civility Tips will be published monthly beginning this month, during the first full week of each month. My other, new blog will be published the third week, addressing questions around gender issues and basic human rights. If you don’t yet receive this blog, you can sign up at First5Rights. In time, I will reevaluate the frequency of both.