Truth is a tricky thing, because how a thing looks depends so much on where you are standing, and what informs your perceptions. No two people see, understand or remember events in exactly the same way. Even in the realms of science, truth – in the form of results, is about balance of probabilities, trends, clusters and the such – hard facts are surprisingly hard to come by.
When dealing with people, I try to bear in mind that their truth is not necessarily the same as my truth, and that this will not necessarily invalidate either position. One of the most essential things in a relationship is the constant negotiation to understand world views, and to get a sense of how the other person’s truth fits with yours. Some of us are too far apart to ever make much sense to each other. By talking gently, comparing, listening, we can develop understanding and insight. If we don’t hang on to the idea that our truth is the only truth there is, relationship becomes a lot easier and far richer. It can really help with resolving conflict as well, because often these arise from difference in interpretation, not any ‘wrong’ on anyone’s part.
So, when a person offers me an insight that doesn’t automatically tie in with my own, I try and find out how that works, and why – whether my perceptions are askew, or there are other issues afoot. Where I have close and trusting relationships – as with my child and partner, this is a really good process, and one that we don’t need to go through very often. The more we do it, the better we understand each other. I realise however it’s an approach that leaves me wide open to deliberate manipulation. Honourable relationship is only possible when all the people involved act with honour.
There’s a world of difference between having a genuinely different take on things, and lying. When all you have are the perceptions of two people to negotiate between, wilful untruth is a serious problem. Imagine a situation in which something goes wrong, one person seeks to find out why and take responsibility for mistakes they may have inadvertently made, while the other knows it was their fault, but lies about it to avoid responsibility, and blames the innocent party. Or if that second party sets out to deliberately harm, and then attempts to place blame on the victim. That can become incredibly destructive, if not maddening.
However, lying is a risky business. Even if you can convince someone their interpretations are wrong, lying is always vulnerable to truth. If there turns out to be any evidence, or proof of the lie, then the person perpetrating it is not only compromised for that situation, but for everything else as well. Once you know that someone is willing to deliberately lie in order to cause harm, deny harm they have caused, blame others for their mistakes and otherwise cause distress, then everything they do is suspect. Once a person has a reputation for that kind of calculated, malicious lying then nothing they say can be trusted, nor should it be, for that is the price of sustained untruth offered for personal gain.
I think everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt. I wouldn’t start from the assumption I was being lied to – unless a person had already compromised themselves. But once a person demonstrates willingness to intentionally and knowingly lie in order to injure another, then there are no second chances, and everything they have said and done before becomes questionable.
How do you deal honourably with someone who has no honour? That I do not know, and must now contemplate. As ever, experiences, opinions and ideas are very welcome.