The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth

Jan 4, 2010   //   by Steve Wooding   //   A Slice of Lemon  //  1 Comment

“The truth is heavy, therefore few care to carry it.”

“Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.”
[Winston Churchill, UK war-time Prime Minister, politician, artist & writer]

(1228 words – approx 6-9 mins to read)

Well, that was 2009.

Since we ended last year with the theme of honesty, I thought I’d start 2010 on a similar note. I’ve got a couple of questions I’d like you to answer truthfully – I won’t make you swear to tell it, I’ll just assume that because you want to get the most out of this, you will be totally honest, at least with yourself:

If you were to give the year of 2009 an overall score out of 10, what would you give it?

If you were to give yourself a score out of 10 for your effort in 2009, what would you give yourself?

Just hold on to those scores for a moment while I remind you of something that lies at the heart of all personal growth and development –


This principle is part of the philosophy of personal power, and goes like this:

In my life I place myself at one end or other of the cause and effect scale.

I can take responsibility for my past, present and future choices and actions, and all their consequences, and so exist at cause.

Or I can give others the responsibility for what has happened, is happening and will happen to me and I exist at effect.

At effect, I rob myself of power and give it to others instead.

At cause I empower myself.

Let’s take this one step at a time and work through the implications here and as we do so, I’m going to ask that for the moment, just for now, you imagine that this issue is totally black-and-white with no grey areas – you can put the grey back in when we’ve finished, should you choose to, although I wonder if you won’t…

We’ll use a simple example, something that happened to me this morning – I made porridge like I do most mornings in the microwave, but this time it boiled over, resulting in me having to clean the microwave and wipe down the bowl before I ate my breakfast.

I could’ve blamed the microwave for being too powerful or not cooking my porridge like it usually does. I could’ve blamed the bowl for being too small. I could’ve blamed the milk for not being the same consistency as usual. I could’ve blamed the TV last night for being too engaging resulting in me going to bed later and not being quite awake this morning. In fact I could’ve found a huge list of possible objects and people to blame, placing myself squarely at the effect end of the scale. And pushing responsibility to something or someone else like this means I don’t have to change – they should!

However, this is a lie. The truth is that it was my fault.

Even though I put what I thought was the same amount of porridge in the bowl and the same amount of milk and set the microwave to exactly the same time, I could’ve easily varied the quantities just enough to make that difference between it staying in the bowl as it cooked, or boiling over. I could’ve watched it as it cooked to make sure it didn’t boil over, or I could measure the quantities more exactly next time.

Accepting responsibility for my mistake places me at cause. And, more than that, it allows me to look at what I could do to change the situation, to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

This may be a small and fairly trivial example, but the principle applies to larger events and choices too. For example, a good ten years ago I was involved in a collision with a car as I was riding home from work. The driver was at fault – he’d driven up the wrong side of the road as he turned into the street I was riding down. However, I realised as I thought about it afterwards that even though he’d been dangerously careless, there were a few things that I could’ve done or checked (which I now do!) that might’ve lessened the severity of my injuries, or prevented the collision altogether. The key is accepting my part, no matter how large or small, in the event and then learning from it – without that acceptance there can be no learning.

How about the breakdown of a relationship? Let’s say your spouse has an affair – surely then that must be their fault? Well, if you decide so and take the effect position, that means you don’t need to look at what you might’ve done (or not done) that contributed to them deciding to try to get what they felt they couldn’t get with you with someone else. However, if you take the cause position, and take a good honest look at yourself and the relationship, there may well be things you spot that, if you learn from them and change, may well prevent your next relationship from failing.

Or the subject de-jour for the new year – weight loss. If you’re overweight or unfit, you have to decide whether you’re going to blame chocolate, TV, the advertisers, the fast-food producers, your ‘big bones’ or genes, excusing yourself with the notion that you need to eat chocolate to make yourself feel better, or something else, for your problems, or grasp the truth that for most of us, barring serious disease, it’s your fault! Either you’re eating more than you need, exercising less than you should or a combination of the two. And without accepting your part in this, there can be no change.

Simply put, the difficult, often inconvenient and sometimes ugly truth is this:

Your life right now is a result of your own choices and your own actions

That includes those you’ve made, and those you’ve avoided making because you thought someone else should or it was easier not to. And even when you think you really can with total honesty and beyond any doubt justify blaming someone else for a particular event, you still have to admit that your response to that event is still your choice – whether to wallow in the negative and self-pity and drag yourself and others down, or to choose instead to look for the positive and move forward.

So what about those two scores I asked you to give 2009 and yourself? If you scored the year quite low, then you need to ask yourself how you let that happen, even if you gave yourself a high score for your efforts. If you scored the year reasonably highly, and yourself quite low then perhaps you’re not being quite honest with yourself about your contribution to the year. If your scores are pretty evenly matched, whether they’re low or high, then I’d guess you’re nearer the cause end of the scale and, if they’re both low, it’s time to review and make some changes. If your scores are both high then just carry on what you’ve been doing!

You see, the most fantastic thing about the cause and effect truth is that when you take responsibility for both your mistakes and your successes, you can’t help but grow and improve!

All of which implies that for 2010 to be the best it can be, you owe yourself the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…

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