There was a man who was very intent in his search for truth. He decided to go and find the truth. So he went to different countries and different religions and asked different wise people. And one of the things he began to notice is that several groups that he went to claimed to have the truth. Well, that raised several problems. One is they can’t all have the exclusive right to the truth. A second problem is: what does it mean to have the truth? Is truth something you get to have? A third is that some of the places he went, things people said seemed right enough, but the tone was horrible. It was harsh and judgmental and self-righteous. He thought, “Well, how can these true words fit with this horrible attitude? Is it still true if it comes from hatred? Is a statement true if it comes from a desire to hurt? Or if the person who says it doesn’t live up to the truth and has no intention of living up to it? Is it truth if it’s only spoken through the mouth but not carried in the heart or into action?
When you read the scriptures, you find that truth is very often paired with mercy or love. If mercy is not with truth, it’s not true anymore. When Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free,” just before that He said, “If you abide in my words…” If you don’t live up to the words, then you don’t really know the truth and therefore it is not going to make you free.
Truth can be more true with one person than with another. Two people might make the same statement, and with one it is true and with the other it is slightly distorted or downright false. This is because the heart of truth is something more than an outward statement. The heart of truth is love. If there isn’t love within the truth, then it’s not true. Truth expresses something deeper than itself, and that deeper thing is love.
Take gossip for example. One human being says something hurtful about another. In some cases, everything said is true. But if the effect is harmful, is it still true? Consider little Johnny. According to the neighbors next door, Johnny is a total brat. He’s always in trouble, too noisy, breaking things, etc. That kid’s up to no good, and he’s going to get in real trouble in life. That’s the neighbor’s point of view. To Johnny’s grandmother, he’s a great kid. He’s wonderful. Yeah, he’s a little boisterous, but he’ll grow out of it. He’s really neat. He’s very inventive. He’s ingenious. Which statements say the truth about Johnny, the neighbors’ or the grandmother’s? Probably, neither is totally accurate. None of us really understands one another. But the person who assesses Johnny from love probably has more truth about Johnny than the person who assesses him from annoyance.
Now think about this in relation to a parent, dealing with a daughter approaching adult years. The parent was getting kind of disgusted with the daughter and saying things that in one sense were perfectly true. But were they really true?
So here’s a general guide. If you hear something that seems to be true coming from your own lips or the lips of somebody else, get a feeling for the spirit within it. If there’s a positive love in it, it’ll have a totally different impact than if it comes out of negativity, out of self-pity, or out of contempt, jealousy, or a thousand other negative emotions. Truth is only true if it comes from something higher than itself, which is love.
Use the simple formula. How do you know if something’s true? If it’s loving, it’s true. If it’s not loving, no matter how accurate it might be in some sense, it’s not true.
Task #26 – Speaking the Truth with Love
When you are about to say something about someone else, ask yourself:
1. Is what I am about to say true?
2. Is what I am about to say loving?
If it is not loving, it is not true.
Additional quotations for reflection:
God shall send forth His mercy and His truth. Psalm 57:3
I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing to You among the nations.
For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens,
And Your truth unto the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
Let Your glory be above all the earth. Psalm 57:9-11
Mercy and truth have met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed. Psalm 85:10,11
You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious,
Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth. Psalm 86:15
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31, 32
Truths which are in themselves truths are more true with one person, less so with another; and with some they are not truths at all but indeed falsities. This becomes clear from almost all things which in themselves are truths. For truths as they reside with individuals vary according to their affections. Secrets of Heaven 2439 – Swedenborg
In itself truth is good since it springs from good – truth being the form that good takes. That is, when good receives a form so that it can be perceived in the understanding it is called truth… General facts are not in themselves good, nor do they have any life; but the affection for them is what causes them to be good and to have life, for in that case they exist for the sake of their use. No one’s affection is stirred by any fact or truth, except on account of the use it serves. The use is what makes it good, though the particular nature of the use determines the nature of the good. Secrets of Heaven 3049 – Swedenborg
Truth does not receive its life from itself but from good; and truth receives its life from good when the person lives in conformity with that truth. When he/she does this, truth injects itself into the intentions of the will, and from these into the person’s actions, and so into the entire person. Truth that is merely known or grasped intellectually by a person remains excluded from the will, and so from the life since the intentions of a person’s will constitute his/her life. But once we become intent on truth it stands at the gateway into our life; and when we are intent on it and therefore practice it, that truth is present within the entire person. Secrets of Heaven 4884 – Swedenborg
If in the Church something is said to be true and yet it leads away from good, it should not be repeated, for it is not the truth. Secrets of Heaven 6822 – Swedenborg
Truths which have the Lord within them are truths that have life, but truths which do not have the Lord within them are truths that have no life. Those which have life are truths of faith grounded in love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbor. Those which have no life are not truths, because inwardly they have self-love and love of the world in them. In this way spirits or angels in the next life can be told apart, for each individual’s possession of truth is determined by the life he leads, that is, by that which reigns universally in him. Secrets of Heaven 8868 – Swedenborg