Truthfulness is the ninth of the ten attributes of ‘dharma’. Normally, this attribute is linked with the faculty of speech; i.e. to strictly speak what one has seen, heard or understood. This could do as a broad general definition. But it does not capture the essence of truthfulness which can only be defined as upholding the intrinsic core of righteousness. If the objective is noble then circumstances may warrant deliberate deviation from the literal definition. For, instance, if a patient is struggling against an apparently incurable ailment, words of encouragement and hope, strengthening his willpower and thereby increasing his chances of survival would better serve the spirit of truth than literally and heartlessly repeating the medical verdict. Such truthfulness is worse than an outright lie. Similarly, if there is estrangement between two closely related parties or persons, each feeling uncompromisingly righteous, the ends of truthwill be better served by acting as a bridge through highlighting even in an exaggerated way the brighter sides of both sides and work towards reconciliation rather than widening the gulf through so-called plain speaking.
Time was when open confession of one’s faults and demerits was not looked down upon; rather one’s innocence and naivete invited indulgence and forgiveness. But now the situation has completely changed. Revelation of private secrets is now a matter of ridicule by the people who take sadistic pleasure in broadcasting a person’s vulnerabilities and in soiling his good name and prestige.
Many instances can be cited when a newly married bride was led to confide in her spouse about her past mistakes and then, instead of promised love and forgiveness, a highly vindictive attitude was adopted thereby making her life a veritable hell. The right thing to do is to keep completely mum about incidents of the past whose revelation is likely to create problems and misery. Truthfulness is considered a sign of nobility. A...
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