Truth Has Two Faces
Truth comes in two flavors. One is the measurable, touchable, physically-manipulable world outside of me, as an individual. It is the world of physics, biology, gravity, and rocket science. Even those who say they live their own truth expect the lights to go on when they flip the switch, and call an electrician or do some type of trouble-shooting when they don’t. They turn the key for their car’s ignition and expect it to start and to go forward when they put it in gear and press the accelerator. They take it to a mechanic if it doesn’t, because reality is real. Effects do have causes. It is the kind of truth that lets us understand and organize nature to bring about desired, expected results.
There is another kind of truth, one that is not measurable in any way. It is personal, it is not shareable or directly knowable by any other person. It is the realm of belief, feelings, thoughts, and hopes. It is suffering and joy, exhilaration and desperation. While they are not touchable or measurable, they are real. Just ask anyone suffering from severe depression. The emotions of young lovers may be moderated by hormones, cultural norms, and other beliefs, but the love that they feel is real, unless, of course, the relationship has some other underlying agenda, which itself is an internal truth for the individual, even if it involves outward dishonesty for a particular purpose. Only the individual knows that truth, even if it eventually manifests in outward displays.
Business firms, governments, other human organizations, and even cultures and societies are also subject to the same pair of truths, the inward, and the outward. There are the buildings, the infrastructure, and the information systems. Even the written mission statements and procedures are but physical signs of an organization’s existence. The actual culture of the organization, how its processes work on the floor, how it treats employees and customers, and how well people cooperate are truths, even if they are not directly measurable. Written business plans are just pieces of paper. Financial results, customer retention, advancement toward goals, and so many other things can be measured, but how an organization actually functions is something that goes on between people, something that depends on trust, on satisfaction, and on a host of other unmeasurables.
Individuals or organizations can “have their own truths,” in the inward sense, but if those truths don’t align with reality, with the outward truths, they will likely run into problems. Individuals can say they identify as white tailed deer, as someone said in recent video, even prancing around the yard and eating grass. In reality, human beings are not ruminant animals, and if such person ate only the food that deer ate, he/she/it would get sick very soon, and eventually die of malnutrition, because human beings are not deer, with large fermentation vats in their bellies, even if they sincerely believe they are. That is determined by the genetic code built of DNA.
A business firm might claim superior customer service, but customers will know whether or not that is true only when they interact with its personnel. Mayors, governors, and congressmen might say how much they care for the poor, but their true colors show up in ghettos, riots, and economic devastation, not in their glowing words in front of the camera. One person can say “I trust you” to another, and it may or may not be true. It could be just a front to manipulate the other person, but that internal truth doesn’t change the way outward reality works. We can all have our own inward truth, but gravity will still kill you, even if you identify as an eagle flying off of tall buildings.
Dan McLaughlin is the author of “Compassion and Truth-Why Good Intentions Don’t Equal Good Results.” Follow him at daniel-mclaughlin.com