Truth hurts, sometimes. That much we know. But should it prevent you from telling it? Should you be apologetic about it?
Being a pacifist, I sometimes feel reluctant to tell the truth if I know that it’s going to hurt someone, hurt a friendship, or disrupt peace and harmony. This attitude of mine towards the truth may be culturally inherited. I was brought up a Javanese, and in the Javanese society, conflict avoidance and respect (rukun) are a pillar that sustains social harmony (Magnis-Suseno, 1997: 43). If, out of necessity, somehow I couldn’t avoid telling the truth, I’d usually feel guilty afterwards and would feel the urge of apologising, never mind how true what I had said was.
Now I think it’s about time I stood by my words, my conviction, my position, my truth -provided that I have made all the reasonable efforts in building the case: truth does not lie, truth is evidence-based, truth is logical, respectful, and compassionate. Truth is verifiable. Truth does not look down on others. It is not an act of the ego that is hungry for recognition or adulation. It is not a defensive act either. Truth speaks in response to untruth, ignorance, intolerance, desires to inflate one’s own ego at the expense of the dignity of others, disrespect, agitation, misguidance, provocation, violence, deliberate deception, racism, exclusivism, so on and so forth.
I am glad I did it: tell the truth. I won’t be apologetic about it. Not this time. Scare tactics, misguided intolerant untruth, provocation and deliberate deception are unacceptable, and I have duly responded to it. If exposing all those things and denuding the perpetrator of his true motives hurts him, then be it. If my act has hurt our friendship, then be it. It’s not me who hurts him, essentially. It’s the untruth returned to the sender with the power of truth that did it.
If one less friend is what it takes to tell the truth, it’s worth it. Truth is worth all the enemies that it generates from its opposite.
One day perhaps he will realise it. Perhaps he won’t. Perhaps our paths will cross again someday. Things change. Friendship and relationships come and go, and so are interests and alliance. But one thing should remain unchanged: the principles of truth. One should never regret telling the truth or holding the principles that sustain it.