The War on Truth
As he interrogated Jesus, Pilate rhetorically asked: “What is truth?” This famous quote makes a poignant point. Truly objective truth has always been illusive. But for too many these days, it’s simply relative. Psychologically speaking, our perceptions largely define our reality. However, depending upon how evolved our consciences are, most of us will at least seek the more objective truth. That is, folks of character want to know when they’re seeing things straight and when they’re not. So, they strive to validate their perceptions and perspectives.
Sadly, we live in the age of rampant truth distortion. In politics, it’s called “spin.” In advertising, it’s called fair marketing strategy. Deceptive verbiage and misleading claims are made all the time. Experts in persuasion know this well. And they’ll tell you the key to persuading is how you “frame” an issue. There are so many ways to deceive. You can lie even by presenting a litany of true facts. Some lying in advertising got unbelievably egregious we even had to create an official agencies to hold would-be deceivers to account. Still, the relentless assault on truth goes on. And, unfortunately, we’ve grown all-too-accustomed to it.
The most character-impaired among us have huge issues with the truth. In fact, they hate it. Why? Because to see, accept, or heed the truth would get in the way of their self-serving agendas. So, not surprisingly, they sometimes wage all-out war on truth. Just as with any other obstacle in their way, they want it gone. People of decent character care about the truth. They want to know it and do their best to tell it. The more character-impaired a person is, the more the truth is expendable.
Narcissists and the Truth
Narcissists have a curious relationship with the truth. They think so highly of themselves they can easily equate their perceptions with reality. The more character-impaired they are, the less they seek validation of their perspectives. For many, reality is simply what they say it is.
Convinced of their superiority, narcissists are also convinced of the superiority of their point of view. So, they’ll can cling to it despite being challenged by opposing perspectives. Traditionally, professionals have thought this a matter of denial. But by definition psychological denial is an unconscious defense against unbearable emotional pain. When narcissists distort, they do so consciously and intentionally. Their war on truth is deliberate. Some think they’re simply oblivious to others’ views. However, usually they’re acutely aware. They might well know that others see things differently. But they simply don’t care what others think. Moreover, believing themselves superior, they just know they’re right and everyone else is wrong.
When Things Get Out of Hand
Most narcissists are not delusional. But their truth distortions can border on the delusional. They can lie so much, so often, and so apathetically that they start to believe their lies. Most of the time, their lying is tactical and self-serving. And most of the time, they don’t actually believe their falsehoods, they just want others to be swayed. But they can go too far, even in their own minds. That’s when their war on truth can get really dangerous. (See also: Delusional Grandiosity and Narcissism.)
A Key Character “Commandment”
As introduced in Character Disturbance, the “Fourth Commandment” of solid character is:
Have the utmost reverence for the truth for it can truly set you free. Be ever mindful of humankind’s incredible capacity to deceive, including oneself. Honestly and humbly acknowledge and reckon with your shortcomings and mistakes.
Another famous saying asserts that the truth has the power to set us free. But what does that mean, exactly? And what does it mean to revere the truth? The answers to these questions have important emotional, psychological, and spiritual dimensions. And we’ll explore these dimensions in more depth in upcoming posts.