Truth and honesty are sometimes two words that get used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. They can be easily confused because they both deal with concepts of authenticity and integrity, while functioning on different levels. Confusion often arises when people mistake honesty for truth and so while someone can be honest, they might also be untruthful. It can sound confusing and easy to mix up the two, which is something that can happen by mistake, or sometimes with intention as a tool to sway opinions, gain followers, or even spread disinformation.
Understanding Truth Before Honesty
Truth refers to the state of being in accordance with fact or reality. For example, imagine your friend who is looking outside says, "it's raining." Your friend's statement is a claim about a fact or reality, specifically the weather condition outside. If it is in fact raining, then your friend's statement is in accordance with fact or reality, and thus truthful.
Truth is an absolute concept, representing the factual and objective reality of a situation or statement. It's not subjective or relative; it is an objective and universal reality that can be discovered through empirical observation, logical reasoning, and scientific inquiry. Something can be truth regardless of an individual's "beliefs or feelings".
Understanding Honesty After Truth
Honesty is a quality of being truthful, sincere, and straightforward in one’s words and actions. It is a moral and ethical principle that requires individuals to be truthful and transparent in their dealings with others. It is also about expressing one's feelings and opinions accurately.
For example, imagine your friend asked you for your opinion on a meal they've cooked for the first time. You may not have enjoyed the meal, but recognize their effort. Being honest you might reply, "I appreciate the effort you put into it and there are some things I like, but I think it could use more salt." They may not appreciate your honesty, but as a quality of truthfulness you have expressed your opinion clearly and directly.
Honesty involves not only telling the truth but also avoiding deception, fraud, and misrepresentation. It is a subjective concept that is based on personal values and beliefs.
Confusion in Politics
An area that has emerged as one of the most difficult to distinguish between truth and honesty is politics. A study by the Pew Research Center found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of adults say it is hard to tell the difference between what’s true and what’s not true when listening to elected officials.
For instance, a politician might honestly express their views on a policy issue, reflecting their sincere beliefs and intentions. However, the truthfulness of their statements—whether they accurately represent the facts or the likely outcomes of their proposed policies—can be much harder for the public to identify.
This difficulty arises from the inherent subjectivity of political discourse, where different individuals and groups can have vastly different interpretations of the same facts or events. As a result, a politician’s honest expression of their views may not necessarily align with the objective truth.
An Example Using The Environment
For example, let's imagine a politician who honestly believes that climate change is not a significant issue and expresses this view publicly. They might argue that the economy should take precedence over environmental concerns, and they might downplay any scientific consensus on climate change.
However, the objective truth, as supported by the vast majority of climate scientists, is that climate change is a significant and urgent issue that poses a major threat to our planet. As such, the politician's honest expression of their views may not necessarily align with the objective truth.
Closing In On Truth & Honesty
While truth and honesty are both important concepts, they are not the same thing. Truth is an objective concept based on facts, while honesty is a subjective concept based on personal values and beliefs. Understanding this distinction is crucial, especially in the realm of politics, where the line between truth and honesty can often become blurred. As citizens, it is our responsibility to critically evaluate the statements of our leaders, distinguishing between what is honest and what is true. The truth can also be said of our everyday interactions too.
This is an opinion article by Guido Piraino of The Monthly Social Podcast. It may also be heard on The Path Radio Mix Online. You can read other opinion articles on the blog page. You may also enjoy video content of The Monthly Social Podcast on YouTube or The Path Radio Mix on YouTube. For sports content, please consider The Coach's Call YouTube Podcast.