It is a sad reality, though I wish it were not so, that most people do not want the truth. Most people neither want to hear nor to tell the truth, when we get to the bottom of matters. A great deal of the suffering of this life is due to people living under, believing, or trying to enforce upon others various kinds of falsehoods and delusions. Nonetheless, a great many people prefer the falsehood to the truth because they are afraid that they cannot handle the truth, and they often know (sadly) that others are not willing to face the truth, and so to preserve relationships that one appreciates, it is often necessary to suppress the truth, because to speak the truth is to the threaten the ground on which we stand and the relationships on which we depend.
Truth and lies hurt in different ways. The truth hurts in massive blows that hit us like a body shot in a boxing ring, knocking the wind out of us all at once as we stagger underneath the weight of the punches it gives. We pay the price in pain at first, and then gradually our recuperative powers allow us to recover, albeit a bit sobered and wounded, from our encounters with the harshness of truth. But lies hurt in a different way. They dull our senses asleep with false promises in their efficacy, they poison us and those around us little by little like a slow-acting poison in small doses, making us dependent on them for our well-being even as our minds are gradually cloaked in the constant fear that we will be seen (or that the institutions and people we love will be seen) for what we really are, a fraud. And yet because we doubt our strength and our ability to handle the truth and what people will say if they know or suspect the truth, all too often we prefer the corruption of the lie rather than the punishing but short-term blow of the truth, that once we weather we can rise above it and overcome it.
Why is this? Why do we assume ourselves to be weaker than we are? The vast majority of evil done by ourselves and others does not spring because we deliberately desire to harm others, but rather because we lash out against others in fear that they are threats, either in who they are or what they say. It is our insecurity and fear that largely drive us to do flagrant acts of wickedness, even as it is our lusts and ambitions that drive us into those sins that make us insecure about the truth. If we are able to successfully wrestle against our lusts and moderate our ambitions, we have less to be afraid of about the truth because we will have less to be ashamed of. However, if we have succumbed to our greed or lusts, especially to a large degree, we have something to hide, and that means that we become enemies of the truth until we have taken its blows and faced our fears down. Sadly, few of us seem willing to engage in that difficult and unpleasant task.
It seems that it is our hatred of unpleasantness that tends to lead us to ignore the elephants that are in the room. Because truth makes us pay now and rewards later, we see the costs of the truth as greater than the buy now, pay later manner of operation in deception. Because we see the future value and future costs approaching zero in our short-term calculations, anything that causes present suffering is to be avoided, and that means we cannot help but act in deceptive and unproductive ways. The lies we believe and tell are generally the result of a warped worldview that leads us to defend that which we have, regardless of whether we possess it legitimately or not, regardless of whether it can be sustained over the long-term or not, to the utmost while attacking with ferocity anything and anyone that threatens our position.
It is easy to see the responses of those who fear and hate the truth. There are personal attacks, there is derision and contempt, and there is a willingness to do anything necessary to drive away the slightest bit of realization that one’s course of action has been mistaken. There is the endless projection, the fronting of an aggressive confidence that hides deep fear and insecurity, the bullying aggression to cover for devastating weakness. We may mouth the familiar saying that the truth will set us free, but sadly most of us do not want to be free, because we believe that the truth will set us free from our superficial happiness, from what we treasure in life in our possessions and relationships, our offices and positions and status. And we may be right in these fears.
But the ultimate question is one of priorities. We show more faith in the temporary and passing aspects of this life than we do in any considerations of eternal judgment. We show more consideration for the right now than the future, for the short-term than for the long-term, and as a result we lie to ourselves and believe the self-serving lies that others tell us. If we really cared about the truth, it would not be hard to find, but it would require us to admit some painful things to ourselves, and given our desire to avoid pain and seek pleasure, our behavior is largely predictable. It is those who insist on digging and poking and prodding and speaking and searching for the truth who are our enemies, and so we treat them as such. If we told truths about ourselves, the truths we told about others might be more tolerable instead of mere clubs and weapons with which to attack someone selectively. But when we are so consumed with ourselves and with the present, no larger calculations are possible, and so we get the leaders and the deception that we deserve. Since few of us commit to the truth, we have a million strong delusions to compete for our sedatives of choice, to blind our eyes from seeing the elephants in the room that we cannot bear to admit.