1/2 truth + 1/2 truth ≠ truth

spinning truthWhen I was in high school, I sang in our church choir. As a preachers kid, I was generally rebellious about church activities. But I didn’t mind the choir because I liked singing, and besides, there was some camaraderie in the group that made it enjoyable. People weren’t religiously “stuffy;” in fact, sometimes they were quite irreverent.

One Sunday, sitting in the choir loft, I was actually listening to my father preach. I’m not sure today what he said. I don’t remember. What I do remember is that, whatever it was, in my own mind I said, ‘that’s the Truth!” The word had a capital T. It wasn’t an opinion or a half truth my father uttered but what I recognized at the time as an absolute Truth.

The culture I inhabit these days doesn’t have much use for even the small letter truth. Instead of the healing that comes from “speaking the truth in love,” we have “spin doctors,” who try to heal our sicknesses with the manipulation of language, sometimes with outright lies.

We all stretch, avoid, exaggerate, hide, deny, ignore the truth . Of course, those in the public eye are the most proficient practitioners, as they are likely to be caught in deceptions most frequently. But I do it and I expect you do it as well. As children we learn quickly to tell mom and dad about the bad behavior of our siblings and our own complete innocence. We soon learn some admissions and confessions are better left unspoken. Truth becomes half truth and half truth dissolves into “spin.”

Writing in Harijan in 1942, Gandhi, who understood “Truth is God,” wrote: “Only Truth quenches untruth. Love quenches anger, self-suffering quenches violence. This eternal rule is a rule not for saints only, but for all. Those who observe it may be few, but they are the salt of the earth; it is they who keep the society live together, not those who sin against Light and Truth.”

As he often did in life, so in death, Gandhi challenges everyone to do the hard interior work that makes Truth real in the world. Prayer, or being in touch with Truth, must be a regular and daily activity. Thought, word and deed, all three, must be pure and Truthful. The pursuit of Truth, of necessity, will involve means that are consonant with the ends desired.

In a world of “spin,” our dedication to the work of nonviolence will include an adherence to Truth, as best we can discern it.

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Editor's note: This story first published on January 25, 2012 at LivingNonviolence.com and is used with permission. Feature photo: a composite image created for LikeTheDew.com - the background (hand) image licensed on iStock.com; the word globe image licensed on 124rf.com.

Carl Kline

Carl Kline is an educator and coordinator of nonviolent alternatives and lives in Brookings, SOUTH Dakota. Here's his about me:

From campus ministry with the United Church of Christ to teaching in higher education, I've always been interested in the relationship between the secular and the sacred, the educated and the ethical, the pursuit of knowledge and the pursuit of human harmony. Jesus and Gandhi are the most influential figures influencing my thought and work. As a student of Gandhi, I've taken groups to India on numerous occasions and brought those from other countries to Indian country in the U.S. to learn harmony with the Lakota. I've been coordinator of Nonviolent Alternatives, a small non-profit, since 1991. Peace Brigades International has been a long time interest as an experiment in creating a nonviolent alternative. A truly international nonviolent movement is my hope for the future and the direction of my time and energy.