The truth is…

Silhouette of a man's head

I always cringe a bit when anyone starts a sentence with “The truth is…”. As soon as I hear this, I can be almost certain I am about to hear the speaker’s own opinions or limited personal perspectives, passed off as some grand truth about the universe.

“The truth is… Trump is a fraud.”

“The truth is… socialism is un-American.”

“The truth is… you are a racist.”

In speaking these words, we try to assert that our way of seeing a situation or our facts is the definitive capital-T Truth of the situation. There is one “right” way to understand a situation and ours is it. Others views are stupid, short-sighted, offensive. When we say “The truth is…” we are also inherently saying “You are wrong about…”.

Think about the effects of this rhetorical move. Rather than owning our judgments and opinions, we try to appeal to some higher power or some objective truth. We claim that in this conversation there is one side that is right, and another that is wrong.



This is binary thinking. It’s the thought that if one statement is accurate, a statement that opposes it must be inaccurate. It kills human connection. How can we connect with someone when we are convinced their perspective is totally invalid? It undermines the values of curiosity, diversity, and compassion. How can we be curious or appreciate diversity when we claim our perspective is the one right way?

But perhaps most importantly, “the truth is…” statements undermine the idea that our own perspective and reactions to a situation are valuable, valid, and meaningful in and of themselves. We must appeal to some objective truth, because we don’t believe our own perspectives are sufficient or worthy.

You’d be right in saying that some statements are true, in a sense. The truth is… the world is round. The truth is… Trump lied about his business dealings. But perhaps it’s more helpful to think of these statements as “accurate” rather than true. Perhaps it’s more helpful to think that the only things that are truly true are those that resonant with our deepest values, emotions, and experiences. They aren’t just accurate; they express meaning about ourselves and the world in a way that simple facts cannot. They express and expose who we are and what is meaningful to us.

What if we all started simply saying “My truth is…”?

What a practice of humility and compassion, leaving room for other truths and the possibility that there are aspects of every situation that we have not yet fully grasped. What a show of vulnerability, speaking from the heart and claiming our own truths as valid and worthy in and of themselves.

Or, that’s my truth at least.


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Peter Schulte is the founder and editor of Kindling. Peter is also Senior Digital Engagement Associate for the Pacific Institute and the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, connecting businesses to sustainable water practices. Peter holds a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A. in Sustainable Systems from Pinchot University. He lives in Bellingham, WA with his partner Sara, child Owen, and cat Winnie.

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