True Enough?

“The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.” — Oscar Wilde

Suppose Wilde is right, pure and simple. It follows that his proposition is likely not pure and definitely not simple. Truth has many forms and many faces, some of which are persisting and some of which are temporary, some of which are obvious and some of which are subtle, some of which are certain and some of which only might be true, are probably true, or are (as the physicists like to say) “approximately true.” Most of the time, one can comfortably deal with the world without thinking about the nature of truth or about the actual validity of most truths. It works out fine to proceed on a “true enough” basis.

Ice is cold and fire is hot. Your car is still where you parked it. The directions you get from MapQuest.com will get you where you want to go. Eat too much and you will get fat. If you need help, you can count on your best friend. The important quandary usually isn’t about truth or whether true enough is good enough. Rather, it’s who can you believe; who speaks the truth?

To answer the, “Who can you believe?” question, it’s necessary to introduce “integrity” into the mix. The question is, “Who are people of integrity?” because they are the only people you can or should trust. Samuel Johnson said, “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.” The take home point is to be sure you only seek truth from people who are clearly knowledgeable, people who know what they are talking about. For example, don’t get legal advice from your brother-in-law, unless he happens to be an experienced attorney.

Perhaps more critical than from whom you seek the truth is your capacity to evaluate the truth you receive. Know that it’s seldom pure or simple. Deciding whether it’s true enough is up to you. Key to this is correctly assessing the integrity of the person from whom you receive the truth. That to is neither pure nor simple; but there is one, essential prerequisite to assessing the integrity of others. You must yourself be a person of integrity.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.” You are the final judge of the integrity of those from whom you seek the truth. John D. MacDonald likely hit the nail on the head when he said, “Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there and see a man who won’t cheat, then you know he never will.” MacDonald also could have said that if you look in there and see a man of integrity, you are looking at a man who probably knows integrity when he sees it, in himself or in those whose truth is true enough.

Now you know so there you go.