Truth – What’s worse, telling the truth or hearing the truth?

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Does it hurt more to tell the truth or to hear it? Wow! Now that’s a loaded question that isn’t going to be easy to answer, if indeed there is an answer. There’s a saying that says the truth will set you free, but even it doesn’t answer the question. Are we free by telling truth or listening to it? This is a subject that just might make for a long, never-ending debate.

Telling the truth isn’t as easy as it sounds, for a number of reasons, including those highlighted below.

-Truth hurts. Most people don’t like to hurt the feelings of others, and sometimes, truth hurts. Whether or not truth should hurt or not is another subject, but the reality is that some things just aren’t easy to hear. People are invested in their personal truths and telling someone that their truth is a lie just isn’t easy, and it’s often painful. We know it will bother them, so it hurts us just to speak it.

Also, there’s that saying about don’t kill the messenger. It’s true. If what we’re telling is a painful truth, the messenger often gets the blunt end of the result. I’ve been a victim of this when I made the choice to tell a sad truth to a friend who actually was very big on truth, but the truth hurt them, and they took it out on me. That rift never mended. Telling the truth cost me greatly, and I’ve never forgotten the price I paid for telling it.

-Insecurity and Rejection. Sometimes we don’t tell the truth because of our own insecurities and fears of rejection. If we tell the truth, will the listener still like us? Will they be angry? Will it cause a rift in our friendship? There are moments when we just don’t want to take the chance that the person on the receiving end of what we have to say will turn on us. Truth isn’t always worth the price.

-The ‘Little White Lie’ Syndrome. We all know this one. Little white lies are harmless. Is it really necessary to speak a truth? Is it important to tell someone that their new outfit makes them look like they’ve just been to the dump? Does it matter that their speech was boring? Is it necessary to tell someone that their lasagna was the worst thing you’ve ever tasted in your life? Little white lies, supposedly harmless, are things many of us are raised to say. With this background, we often wonder if we should tell the truth or let it go. What’s more polite? What would Miss Manners tell us to do?

On the flip side, hearing the truth can challenge a person’s character. If truth is highly valued, as we claim it is in our society, why would anyone not want to hear it? Some of those answers are listed below.

-Truth hurts. Just like telling truth hurts, having someone say that something we don’t like can be equally painful. It’s human nature to want to be liked. If someone suddenly indicates that they didn’t like something we did, are wearing, said, or believe, it tends to hurt our feelings. The result can be a tear in the fabric of the relationship between the teller and the receiver of the truth.

-Denial. Sometimes we hear only what we want to, and we are so convinced that our truth is the only truth, that we ignore what we’re told. In this case, we just don’t want the truth. We push it away and reject it, regardless of any evidence that might be staring us in the face. Hearing the truth is a choice. In some cases, we deny its existence, preferring to live on with our delusions.

-Inadequacy. Not unlike the insecurities issue for telling the truth, the result of hearing words of honesty can mean that we doubt ourselves, that we begin to wonder about our own self-worth. If what they are saying is truth, what does that mean about us? Of course, it depends on the truth being told, but if it’s one about our looks, beliefs, way of living, or something similar, it just may cause a person to have esteem issues.

So, what hurts the most – telling or hearing? Telling the truth is a risk, in that you’re counting on the other person to understand your reason for speaking up. At the same time, hearing the truth and reacting positively means having confidence in oneself and being secure enough to understand the honesty being offered without feeling like it’s an attack. It takes courage to say the truth, and it takes courage to hear it. Thus, the answer to the question is that both can hurt equally. One can only hope that a relationship of any kind is strong enough to afford the honesty that truth demands.


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