Truthiness is a word comedian Stephen Colbert coined to describe “things that a person claims to know intuitively or ‘from the gut’ without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.” Truthiness isn’t concerned with truth per se, but rather what one imagines is the truth.
My image and a short synopsis of my weight-gain/weight-loss story are currently on Oprah’s website. The photo looks a little like me – there’s some “truthiness” to it – but it’s not an accurate portrayal of the everyday me. The story also misses a few important facts. It says, “…she says she lost all control and gained 106 pounds in a single year—topping out at an all-time high of 296 pounds.” What I really said, and I told the producers this several times, is that I gained 106 pounds over a four-year period (1999 to 2003). And one of the most important reasons why I gained so much weight is that I was hypothyroid and wasn’t diagnosed at the time. The eating was secondary.
The story also says I lost 165 pounds in a year. Right. Like that happens without surgery. It took me two years, two months and 12 days to get to goal (Jan. 1, 2005 through March 12, 2007). I told the producers that, too. I guess pinching the truth a little makes a better story.
When I hear the word “truth,” I sometimes think about the speech Jack Nicholson’s character makes in the courtroom in the movie “A Few Good Men.”
Jessep (Jack Nicholson): You want answers?
Kaffee (Tom Cruise): I think I’m entitled to them.
Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!
The truth can be tricky. If there are two sides to every story, whose truth do you believe? Whose point of view constitutes the real truth? Stories, after all, filter through individual eyes and ears and belief systems making room for dozens and thousands of different truths.
Sometimes the truth is too much to bear, too hard to hear, too “out there” and unbelievable.
Small towns are particularly susceptible to “truthiness.” I know this first-hand as a long-time resident of a small town, a member of the local press, and as the subject of a few rumors, one of which just won’t seem to die.
When one person’s truth doesn’t jive with someone else’s truth, people on the outside of the truth set up “sides.” When this happens to you, when you hear a rumor, do you ask yourself whose “side” you will believe? Will you choose to perpetuate the rumor or will you choose to stay quiet? Will you go the source and ask each individual yourself what their truth is and make your own decision?
I’m guilty of perpetuating rumors. I’ve told a few stories in my day. I doubt there is anyone out there who can say they are innocent of such a deed. I’ve also chosen to stay silent. Only on a rare occasion have I gone to both parties and asked for their version of the truth. It makes me extremely uncomfortable and so most of the time I end up with my point of view based on, what can essentially be called, “truthiness.”
I’m blogging about truth and truthiness because this is something I want to meditate on in the upcoming days. What is my truth? How do I form truth and how do I make sense of things in my mind? How do I talk about “truth” with my friends and others? Where do my prejudices enter into my thinking about truth? What do I do when the truth is uncomfortable? How do I contribute to others’ truth?
Deep stuff, my friends. But if we are to live, as Oprah and Bob Greene say, our “best lives,” we must address what is in our hearts just as surely as we address how we treat our bodies.