- Politics and Social Issues
Why is it often thought offensive when you speak the truth, why must we always soften it up somehow?
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.