Lactose-Free Truth

If you ask them, most people will tell you they want the truth. That the truth is important – and preferable to a lie at all times.

In reality, most people want what they want, and whatever that thing may be – more money, a better job, less stress, more sex, a loving partner, a bigger house – if the truth doesn’t help them attain it, they couldn’t care less about it.

That’s why bullshit, defined by philosopher Harry Frankfurt as “saying whatever one must say to get away with it,” has become so pervasive in our culture. It’s not just that lies, half-truths, and whatever opinions will satisfy our social circles are efficient yet immoral means to cut corners and fulfill our own desires – it’s that when it comes to their behavior rather than their professed attitude, many people actually prefer bullshit as long as it spares their feelings. Therefore, bullshitters feel like they’re doing both themselves and the world a favor.

No one will thank you for being right when you predict the economy will collapse. No one will thank you for confessing your love if they still won’t end up with you. And no one will give you credit for discovering the fatal flaw in the product when the company goes belly-up regardless.

Lactose-free truth. That’s what people would like. “Gimme the milk without the sugar, please.” Well, there is no diet version of truth. You’ll get the whole thing or none at all. Are you ready to swallow a toad if that’s what comes out of the wrapper? That’s what it really takes to say you want the truth and mean it: The courage to face the unknown without reassurance.

A sincere commitment to the truth is also a commitment to pain, failure, and frustration. It is a guarantee that life will blow up in your face, and that, sometimes, you’ll have to be the one pressing the detonator. That’s hard. It’ll be hard. It’s one of the toughest commitments you’ll ever make, and so it should be no surprise that most people take a long time to get ready for it, if they ever do.

And yet, deep down, underneath our superficial desire for sugar-free integrity, I think we all know: Honesty may not always lead to our metaphorical survival, but in every human’s life, there’ll be a time when the truth matters more than self-preservation. Whenever that time comes, please, promise me you’ll serve the real drink. Proper medicine often tastes bitter, but it’ll still work in time – even if, initially, it hits us right in the stomach.