Denial Isn’t a River In Egypt

by Ron Haynes

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?

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1001 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

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Gracia Fraile

I’m guilty of 1,3,7,8 (at least).
I think I mostly deny the truth because I don’t think I’ll be able to change anything if I face it and don’t like it. And since I don’t want to feel like a failure for not being able to change what I don’t like, I just don’t face it.

Did that make any sense?


Yes, I understand and that does make sense. We all are guilty at times, but if you’re willing to admit it and work on it, you’re on the right track.

It’s tough but it’s a freeing experience.

Baker @ ManVsDebt

This is a really awesome list! I’m a huge fan of personal responsibility and overcoming (or increasing awareness of) denial is a huge part of that process. I’m bookmarking this for more inspiration later!


Ron – I think people deny the truth because it is convenient for them. They want to believe what isn’t true because it serves their interest in some way. Of course, a life built on lies will crumble. Great article!


Ah truth…what is truth. I think you hit the nail on the head (relavitely speaking) at item number 10, truth can be relative and it changes. The “truth” of yesterday, is today’s falsehood. My breakfast is different from your breakfast. I’m sure there are some Truths out there, but they are just so darn hard to pin down.


I don’t think it’s a good idea to slip into relativism when it comes to truth. Certainly, there are situations where things are open to interpretation, but there ARE some universal truths. How about “No THING can bring itself into existance” for a universal truth?

“What is truth?” is a very simple question. Of course, answering it isn’t so simple. We can offer definitions like “Truth is that which conforms to reality, fact, or actuality,” but this basic definition is not complete because its definition is open to interpretation and a wide variety of applications. What is reality? What is fact? What is actuality? How does perception effect (or even affect) truth? We could offer answers for each of these questions, but then we could again ask similar questions of those answers. It’s like the paradox of throwing a ball against a wall. It must get half way there, and then half way of the remaining distance, and then half of that distance, and so on. But, an infinite number of halves in this scenario never constitutes a whole. Therefore, it would seem that the ball would never reach the wall if we applied the conceptual truths of halves.

The ball-against-the-wall scenario simply illustrates that defining and redefining things as we try to approach a goal actually prevents us from getting to that goal. This is what philosophy does sometimes as it seeks to examine truth. It sometimes clouds issues so much, that nothing can be known for sure.

But, even though it is true that an infinite number of halves (1/2 of “a” + 1/2 of the remainder + 1/2 of the remainder of that, etc.) does not equal a whole, we can “prove” that it does by simply throwing a ball at a wall and watching it bounce off. Actually, the “1/2″ equation above does not equal a whole — mathematically. The problem is not in the truth but in its application, as is often the case with philosophical verbal gymnastics.

In relativism, all points of view are equally valid and all truth is relative to the individual. If this were true, then it would seem that this is the only truth relativism would have to offer. But, the problem is that in reality, relativism isn’t true for the following basic reason: if what is true for me is that relativism is false, then is it true that relativism is false?
1. If you say no, then what is true for me is not true and relativism is false.
2. If you say yes, then relativism is false.

Relativism seems to defy the very nature of truth, namely, that truth is not self-contradictory.


A little off topic, but #10 reminded me of a diet I read about some years ago. This guy lost a ton of weight by eating his meals in reverse. For breakfast he ate things like chicken breasts, rice, vegetables,etc. Lunch was normal, but then for dinner he ate more traditional “breakfast foods” like cereal, fruits, etc.

When asked how he could eat some of those foods for breakfast he pointed out that there was nothing different about eating those foods in the morning than at night. It was simply regional/cultural bias that had us used to eating certain foods at certain times of the day.


Thanks for the great response – gives me something to think about. I see what you’re saying, but call it “my generation” I’m still a little suspicious of what people call truth. I was in a funny mood yesterday, so it seems that I was talking semantics, but it was the practicallities of what you said about being in denial of truth that got me interested. People historically believed, for example, that it was a truth that certain people were intellectually inferior, for example, and any one who thought otherwise would have been in denial of the truth. This has since been “proven” to not be the case. New “true” truth? Maybe (semantics again) this is the difference between truth and fact. Hmm, thinking, something I haven’t done in a while.

Do You Dave Ramsey?

How true…. sometimes it’s so easy to operate in a state of denial. However, by seeking and acting upon the truth we’ll begin to carve the best path and outcomes for ourselves.

Good stuff, thanks for sharing.

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