Home > Lessons I've Learned > “You Can’t Handle the Truth” [*]

“You Can’t Handle the Truth” [*]

The title of this blog has been made cliché by the memorable scene from “A Few Good Men” in which Jack Nicholson’s character berates Tom Cruise’s character in an effort to avoid telling the truth that he knows will ultimately get him into trouble. The outcome of the scene is that the truth is told and Jack Nicholson’s character is hauled off to jail. If he knew he’d get into trouble, why did he confess to it? How did Cruise’s character persuade the truth to come out? The short answer is pride. Nicholson’s character was in fact proud of what he had done. It’s doubtful that he was proud that his actions had resulted in an accidental death, but he was proud for following an unwritten code. A code that he stuck to even when others had doubts about its validity. He believed in this code of conduct and instilled his knowledge about it to the men under him, the men that he ordered to perform a “code red”. Even as Nicholson’s character was being hauled out of the courtroom, he continued to stick to his convictions, knowing that what he did was right. We may all have differing opinions about what is appropriate behavior in the military. I have never been in combat. I have never watched a man die. Who am I to determine the best way to prepare soldiers for battle? War is something that I cannot begin to understand and I hope that I never have to.

Many of us face the same dilemma that Nicholson’s character faced, daily. We have beliefs that we firmly hold to but know that some people just won’t understand. For many of us, myself included, our instinct is to keep these beliefs and opinions to ourselves except for when we occasionally share them with those closest to us.

For years I have kept many things to myself because of fear. During my adolescence, I was afraid of being judged by my peers who may have thought that I was not cool. Sadly, as a young adult, I was afraid of sharing too much with my closest friend for fear of being ridiculed. Even sadder than that is that I am not even sure if that old friend is even aware of this since I was too afraid to tell him. After losing touch with that friend, I decided that I was no longer going to keep my opinions and beliefs to myself. If someone was going to like “me”, they were going to have to accept me for me and not some image that I wished to project, or worse, an image that they tried to force onto me.

Little did I realize that people in general don’t like the truth. We can’t handle it. We like the images and the facades. We like to feel comfortable. Homeless people, death, earthquakes, and God are all things that make many of us feel uncomfortable, but whether we choose to accept them or not, these things are all very real and they aren’t going away anytime soon. Part of our quest for comfort, especially in America, leads us to pretend (most of the time) that these things don’t exist or won’t affect us. Anytime there is a large natural disaster the Press goes nuts pointing fingers at everyone, especially at the Government, for not doing enough to prevent the disaster. The reality is that large disasters are a reminder that we are not in control of our own world, and that makes us feel uncomfortable.

We spend most of our time confined to our own little worlds attempting to control what we can and avoiding the things that we can’t. Perhaps it’s time for some of us to extend ourselves beyond our comfort zone. For some, that means sharing your beliefs with others that you don’t think will understand you. For others, this means accepting someone for who they are despite not understanding them. Here are some tips to those who will take this advice to heart. You will experience some discomfort by stepping out of your world. It’s different out there. Some people will look at you funny. Some people may get upset because you have interfered with their world. Other people, however, will be delighted that you have found them in their world. Grow your world a bit. This is a big planet with lots of people and places. There is a lot to experience out there.

I am proud of my beliefs and I will stick to them despite the looks and reactions that I occasionally receive. Not everyone can accept me for who I am. That’s the way this world works. We are all different. If it was easy to find people to truly connect with, we’d all be married, divorces would be non-existent, and kids would not rebel against their parents. In the real world, sharing my idea of the truth is no easy task. However, I am proud of my beliefs and I am sticking to them.

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