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Why is it often thought offensive when you speak the truth, why must we always soften it up somehow?

Updated on June 28, 2012
Dealing with strong reactions to hearing the truth is not a new problem. St. Paul dealt with this challenge in his days.
Dealing with strong reactions to hearing the truth is not a new problem. St. Paul dealt with this challenge in his days.

Paul in his letter to the Galatians dealt with the problem of people taking offense at hearing the truth. He posed the question, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16). In his case, he had to deal with confronting the humanistic philosophies and heresies of that time. Many of the locals still wanted to engage in free for all sexuality and immoral conduct rather than depart from such lifestyles. At that time, it was common for Greek communities to harshly mistreat strangers to their cities and think they had done nothing wrong. Murder, adultery, immorality, prostitution and infanticide were common ways of dealing with problems. The locals did not want to give up their lifestyles then, nor did they want people to confront them with the truth about what they were doing. In their minds, there was nothing wrong with what they were doing. They believed that they were ‘good people’ since they were not breaking any local laws. The locals wanted their own version of spiritual truths rather than what Paul was presenting to them. They liked the idea that there were many ‘truths’. There were even popular local sects that believed that salvation was to be had through legalistic adherence to a specific lifestyle. Had Paul said that his truth was one of many ways, they would have liked him. The locals took offense at his presenting ‘the truth’ and calling into question all their immoral, legalistic and self-serving ways. His question has echoed through the ages. People did not want to hear the truth then, and they do not want to hear truth in the 21st century.

There are many reasons why speaking the truth is offensive to some. First, there are some people that do not want to hear the truth. It is not just uncomfortable for them, it rocks their world. When they hear truth, it challenges their world view. Hearing the truth forces them to make a paradigm shift. It is often easier for them to attack the source of the information than to change their way of thinking. For them, hearing the truth means what they had believed is wrong. Since they often associate holding wrong ideas with being wrong as a person, they take the confrontations personally. When they take offense, it is in a personal manner. That is the reason that they launch into personal attacks. They try to make the person presenting the truth to hurt in a personal way.

Another group takes offense at hearing the truth because ‘truth’ exposes lies they have held. When the lies or dark secrets are exposed, they feel vulnerable. When people hold onto lies for a long time, they become comfortable for them. Rather than grow from the experience, they attack and take offense when those lies are exposed. They do not want to face the possibility that what they had assumed as factual was actually a lie. These people feel naked and exposed. Being vulnerable like that is painful. In their efforts to hide their being exposed, they lash out angrily. When the errors of what thoughts they have believed or done, is exposed, they often feel dirty. Rather than work through that discomfort, it is easier to attack. By attacking the messenger, they no longer have to face the discomfort of their exposure.

The strong reaction that happens when people are exposed to the truth can be strong. In some cases, people are killed. Countless numbers of people have been killed because they told others the truth or began believing the truth. Persecution of truth tellers has a long history that includes the Inquisition, the holocaust, the progroms of Russia, the cultural revolution of China, book burnings, genocides like happened in Armenia, clearings such as happened in Scotland, stoning of ‘unbelievers’, sanctioned hits by secret societies to silence wayward members and economic persecutions under Sharia are all forms of controlling or silencing those who speak the truth. These historic events show the strong and life threatening reaction that can occur when errors are exposed.

I have learned that the fastest way to get someone angry is to tell them the truth. For this reason, speaking the truth has to be done selectively. Some people can handle hearing truth, yet a greater majority can not. They have trouble hearing truth regarding spiritual matters, relationships, politics, science and history. In order to avoid dealing with truth in these areas, myths are often constructed to keep them safe. In some cases, they call their myths, ‘esoteric truths’, so that they feel special, as if they know something that others do not. This is the same dynamic involved in secret societies. They treat the secret as a special truth, like it was a special club that only a few people can be a part of.

Part of the problem lies in the situation that occurs when a truth is spoken. For there to be a truth, it means that those opposing it are ‘wrong’ and in ‘error’. No one wants to be wrong. This dynamic is compounded in contemporary society due to egalitarianism (the idea that everything and everyone are equal). The idea that all religions are equal and all people are equal sounds good. Such talk makes for pleasant sounding speeches, yet it lulls people into believing that everything is equal. To upset that balance by presenting truth and exposing that some group is wrong often termed ‘offensive’. Telling the truth means that you are daring to say that not all groups are equal and not all beliefs are equal. In contemporary society, taking such a stand is regarded as heresy to the religion of progressivism. That is why such persons are labeled as ‘haters’ or something stronger because they dare to upset the status quo.


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    • Sue St. Clair profile imageAUTHOR

      Sue St. Clair 

      6 years ago from I would rather be in Paris


      You have some wonderful insights. There are times that truth-tellers need to present their truth in love. There are times that they need to present it and 'run for their lives' as well.

      I agree that many Christians are not always loving when they present material. They often try to play Holy Spirit rather than let the Holy Spirit work. In terms of the atheists, I have my share of battle scars from their attacks.

      Freedom of speech is often a two-way street where things are said that may be wrong, but they have a right to say it. When it comes to truths, I believe the strongest reactions are often to truths. Since it is powerful, the truth-teller has to use tact in their approach as well, or else they come across like an acre of garlic.

      I appreciate your comments and insights.

    • Levertis Steele profile image

      Levertis Steele 

      6 years ago from Southern Clime

      Sue St. Clair:

      I read your quotation of proverbs only yesterday: "Proverbs says that those who can handle truth and hear it, are like a beautiful earring attached to the hearing ear. " Amazing!

      We must also recognize that all people to not "get it." Truth is not always recognized as truth. That is where proof and patience are exercised.

    • Levertis Steele profile image

      Levertis Steele 

      6 years ago from Southern Clime

      There is one asumption that truthtellers make: people automatically believe them because they have presented a truth. Proof needs to be in place, too. Often truth tellers get heartlessly angry when receivers do not believe them. Check out the many hubs about truth, and behold the anger of the many truthtellers AND receivers. Both sides of the truth often misrepresent themselves when delivering or responding. A fine example is a hub battle between atheists and Christians. If you find yourself on one of those battlefields, you had better duck because it can be vicious.

      Truthtellers need to be prepared for rejection and need to have a plan in place to deal with it properly. Truthtellers need to use tact and patience. Truthtellers need to know when to stop pushing, and respect the right of the receiver when he or she wants to end the conversation. Of course, a reader of a truth hub has the option to read or not read, just as the author of a hub has the right to publish a truth. Many readers try to control an author's rights when all he/she has to do is stop reading. Truthtellers need to know when to walk away when they are in a face-to-face confrontation.

      When truth is presented properly, and at the right place and time, the recipient often knows that it is truth, even though he/she may reject it. Often planting a seed is all that is neded. It is not necessary to beat the recipient over the head with a shovel or hoe. That is the mistake many truthtellers make. Christians are told to plant a seed and let the Holy Spirit do his job of working on hearts. We find trouble when we assume the job of the Spirit. We are cautioned to "shake the dust of our feet and move on," but we just have to go that unnecessary mile because we do not truly believe that the Spirit is on His job! So, the good truthteller digs a hole and falls into it. Mistake.

      You are truly right that many people who hear the truth get upset, but it often happens on both sides.

      Thanks for a good read!

    • Sue St. Clair profile imageAUTHOR

      Sue St. Clair 

      6 years ago from I would rather be in Paris,

      They run away from truth or attack it. Many fights and family conflicts started with someone not wanting to face the truth. That happens in families and among nations as well. There would have been less blood shed and heartache had they faced and worked through truth rather than avoid it. As President Davis said, "Truth crushed to the earth is truth still and like a seed will rise again."

    • profile image 

      6 years ago from upstate, NY

      It's amazing the lengths poeple will go to avoid the truth! The very truth poeple need to hear is often the truth they will avoid the most! As humans, we have an amazing capability to rationalize what is uncomfortable to us!

    • Sue St. Clair profile imageAUTHOR

      Sue St. Clair 

      6 years ago from I would rather be in Paris


      Thank you for leaving a comment. You have some good insights. The phrase "all roads lead to God" is very misleading. That saying sums up the egalitarian idea that all religions are equal. Jesus's statement that "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man may enter unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6) renders the egalitarian idea null and void. That is a passage that often steps on toes due it excluding other approaches.

    • slcockerham profile image


      6 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      Hey Sue, Enjoyed your hub, since they hated Jesus first, (as truth made flesh) they have to hate us and the mention of Jesus or truth. As a truck driver, I always thought that the statement that all roads lead to God was quite interesting. Common sense tells you that is wrong, but many still accept that as true.

    • Sue St. Clair profile imageAUTHOR

      Sue St. Clair 

      6 years ago from I would rather be in Paris

      ib radmasters,

      You are correct! Modern societies often prefer the lies, deception and avoidance rather than seeking truth. Although those methods seem easier at first, in the long run, they make matters worse.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 

      6 years ago from Southern California

      Truth is like a rare earth mineral, very hard to find.

      Truth is not the problem today, Lies, deception, avoidance is the real problem.

    • Sue St. Clair profile imageAUTHOR

      Sue St. Clair 

      6 years ago from I would rather be in Paris


      You have some sage words there. Truth can and has gotten people killed. Truth is often hard to accept. Whether we want to hear it or not, it remains true. Some people repeat the truth so much that it becomes nagging. Like salt, a little often goes a long way and we have to know how to use it. I find myself having to be careful with those who I can be truthful with. Just putting together the hub required some introspection and carefulness in how to approach a topic like truth which is like the third rail.

    • Sue St. Clair profile imageAUTHOR

      Sue St. Clair 

      6 years ago from I would rather be in Paris


      I can not imagine being reprimanded by a pastor in front of such an audience. He must have delivered in with a LOT of love. You are a rare person who can take truth. Proverbs says that those who can handle truth and hear it, are like a beautiful earring attached to the hearing ear. Thank you for sharing.

    • Davesworld profile image


      6 years ago from Cottage Grove, MN 55016

      Truth is a difficult thing. "Your new haircut makes you look 30 years older," is probably a truth you do not want to hear. "You keep smoking and you'll die early," is a truth a smoker should listen to but likely will not. "Your car needs a brake job," is something you would be very foolish to ignore.

      Then there's the old adage, one man's truth is another man's fiction. Quoting the Apostle Paul may reveal truth to you, but it will fall on deaf ears when spoken to the likes of Richard Dawkins and could get you killed if you try it with the wrong person. Truth is not only difficult it's tricky.

    • ComfortB profile image

      Comfort Babatola 

      6 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      I don't mind hearing the truth, as long as it is done in love. I was once reprimanded by a preacher (in the presence of about 500+ audience) on the way I read the bible reference he had called out. I read too fast to grasp the meaning/spirit behind the Word.

      I know he didn't do it to embarrass me, it was out of love. So I took it as a correction, and have not read that way since then. Now, I read the bible to get wisdom and understanding.

      When speaking the truth, some people are not considerate of the feelings of others, and are out to hurt the other. Some can actually be condescending of their audience. The truth should always be spoken in love.

      Interesting hub. Voted up.


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