By Ademola Adedoyin
Truth. This five letter word appears so innocuous yet so complex and complicated. What is the truth? What is true about truth. What is untrue about truth? So many questions and so many issues about truth. Is there a difference between a truthful person and the one who says everything he considers truth that comes his way?
The Good Book of Christians says: Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32). That’s a very carefully worded one: Knowing the truth is certainly not the same as saying it. And not saying the truth is certainly not the same thing as lying.
In the Yoruba philosophical worldview: A kii t’oju onika mesan ka. Yes, you know it as a truth that the man has nine fingers, instead of 10, but will you stand him up and start counting his fingers in the public space? If you stand in the market place and pronounce him as the man with nine fingers, you have not lied, but how does that promote inter personal relationship and mutual respect? What would you have lost if you didn’t say that truth?
Certainly a reflective and deep thinker knows that while it is desirable to know all the truth like the Good Book said, it is not ideal to reveal all the information at one’s disposal in the name of saying it as it is. To confuse reckless and insensitive pronouncements with truthful disposition is to publicly display thoughtlessness. To raise your voice in the public space and pronounce the object of your attack as a deprived child from a poverty stricken home, may be saying it exactly the way it is, but every reasonable listener to such taunting knows that the person with the bigger challenge is the one making the pronouncement.
Another wise, deep one from the sages of our land is: The family secret shared by the wise, old man with his children in the comfort of his inner chamber will be recklessly shared in the market place by his foolish child. And, no matter how embarrassing that secret may be to the family, the foolish child could insist that he was only saying the truth because, all the truth, as far as he is concerned, must be said all the time. Again, the words of the Bible resonates: You shall know (not you shall say) the truth and the truth shall make you free.
If, indeed, all the truth must be said all the time, why should doctors and other medical workers, hold their patients’ medical records as confidential and private. Since the doctor knows the truth about the medical history of a patient and, even the risk hazard such patient may pose to the larger society, why can’t the doctor go to town with the information at his disposal in the name of saying the truth? Apart from violating medical ethics, will a doctor earns anyone’s trust and confidence, if he casually drops information about patients’ health challenges in the name of saying the truth?
In journalism profession, you are expected to protect your source of information, even at the risk of the firing squad. Will a journalist who recklessly reveals the source(s) of his information in the name of saying the truth be considered a hero or villain?
Obviously there is a world of difference between knowing the truth and saying the truth. So your friend is planning a surprise birthday bash for her husband and you are privy to the information. And because you cherish the truth so much, you have gone ahead to tell that truth to the husband. You know the truth and you say the truth, but how does this enhance interpersonal relationship and trust building?
Spies, political renegades and traitors are seekers of true intelligence and are, in most cases, in possession of accurate information. They betray their countries by taking such information to the enemy’s camps for some ulterior motive and rewards, or no motive and reward at all. If saying the truth is such an edifying conduct in all situations, why is this set of truth sayers treated as criminals of the worst kind by their countries?
Who will garland that truth sayer who calls a press conference to announce that his country is building up arms and armaments in preparation for a major campaign, listing all the details of what his country has in her arsenal?
The truth about truth is that while one must never be tired of seeking the truth, one must be discreet enough to know when to share the truth at one’s disposal so as not to be adjudged as untutored, unenlightened and thoughtless.
In the last analysis, those who bring about harmonious and peaceful coexistence, equity and justice in the society are those who know the truth, who are cautious and sensitive in deploying the truth they have and who weigh every word they utter, given that, in the words, of Dryden, the Poet: “there are words that strike harder than blows, and men may speak dagger, even though they use non.”
Happy new year, friends.