A couple of days ago, I was pondering the reasons WHY people choose to deny the truth. It really doesn’t matter what that particular truth is, someone will deny it. It might be the truth that smoking is bad for their health, or that spending more than they earn will not make them rich, or that no nation ever taxed its way into prosperity. No matter what, there is always someone to deny the truth.
Why do people deny the truth?
1. People deny the truth because it makes demands of them. Sometimes those demands aren’t comfortable to accept. They may require altering a worldview, or accepting someone unlikable, or plain old hard work.
2. People deny the truth because it isn’t scientific enough. If the experiment isn’t repeatable and there is no real “proof of purchase,” they deny X ever happened. Here’s a thought: nothing in history is repeatable. I cannot prove Alexander the Great really existed from a scientific standpoint. I can gather and present evidence, but that’s all. It is true that I love my wife. This isn’t logically provable via theorems and formulas and logic paradigms, but it is true, nevertheless.
3. People deny the truth because it’s more comfortable (and easier) to believe a lie. Everyone caught up the the Madoff Ponzi scheme would rather have believed that Uncle Bernie knew some secret that could get superior returns. Never mind that it was all a lie, it was much more comfortable to be a part of the “in” crowd investing with him.
4. People deny the truth because they’re blinded. I see this with love-birds all the time. “She is perfect!” “He’s just so dreamy!” “She loves to fix me dinner and even offered to do my laundry!” “He listens to me and we can just talk for hours on end.”
5. People deny the truth because they think they’re the exception. Very rarely, if ever, does anyone rate themselves as below average. Study after study shows that people rate themselves as average or above in everything from investing, to looks, to how they drive. If you feel the need to comment that you’re the exception to this rule, you just proved my point.
6. People deny the truth because they’re biased. The most obvious bias these days is political bias, but there are many others:
- Regency bias – seeing things or people in their most recent light
- Data Mining bias – looking for trends that really aren’t there
- Correlation/Causation bias – thinking things are causal just because they’re correlated
- Hindsight bias – thinking you “knew” it was going to happen that way and … it did!
- Status Quo bias – having an aversion to change
- Fear bias – fear of the unknown can cause you to deny truth
7. People deny the truth because they’re afraid of standing alone. One of the wisest men I know, Dr. Frank Barker, when he was asked, “What’s the most important lesson we can teach our children?” told a group of people (after thinking for 2 full minutes), “Teach them to stand alone.” Standing alone and standing for the truth are hallmarks of greatness.
8. People deny the truth because they’re afraid of being judged or ridiculed. This goes hand in hand with fear of standing alone, but with a twist. Fear of the judgment and ridicule of others isn’t just based on a fear of loneliness but a fear of becoming ostracized, of being an outcast, of never being accepted.
9. People deny the truth because they’re afraid of being duped. Cynicism has been elevated to an entertainment art form and it’s permeated everything from politics to grade school.
10. People deny the truth because it doesn’t fit with their preconceived notion of how the world works. This one is the biggie. It probably accounts for more truth denial than the other nine combined. For example, in the US, certain foods are thought of as “breakfast” foods, but in other parts of the world, people look at bacon and eggs and think YUK! They eat THAT? … for BREAKFAST? That’s just a cute example, but it has deeper connotations. Depending on who you are, where you were raised, and what you were exposed to as a child, you’re notion of how the world works may be vastly different than someone raised just a few miles down the road.
Constantly seek the truth. Weigh it out. Evaluate without bias and accept it. Take things a step further and act on the truth you discover.
If we ever hope to determine if there is such a thing as truth apart from cultural and personal preferences, we must acknowledge that we are then aiming to discover something greater than ourselves, something that transcends culture and individual inclinations. To do this is to look beyond ourselves and outside of ourselves.
Are you willing to accept what you find?