April 28

“What is Truth?”


There’s a well-known, historical, verbal exchange between Jesus of Nazareth and Pontius Pilate that I’m reminded of every Easter. The line from this exchange that sticks with me the most is from Pilate: “What is truth?” (John 18:38 RSV-CE)

“Truth” has come under a lot of fire in recent decades. I’d invite your help in defining truth for the benefit of all of us. This is not a one-person task.  

Here’s my definition to help us start. Additional ideas are welcome. We just need the best answer. I don’t care where it comes from. 

Truth Described:

  • Truth comes from one source, not competing sources. 
  • Truth cannot be separated from love. People tend to separate the two in decision making and that seems to create an integrity problem.    
  • Truth is time-tested and objective. In other words, truth doesn’t change.  
  • Accepted – examples of accepted truths are dignity of the person and doing what’s in the common good (also sometimes referred to as principles).  
  • Truth is absolute – life depends upon it. An example of absolutism is gravity: you jump off a tall building, and you WILL fall to the ground.   
  • Truth and law are interchangeable. An unjust law is a human law not rooted in divine, natural or moral law.  
  • Truth suffers, but never dies. In the end, truth wins.  

Applications of Truth: 

  • Truth simplifies leadership and decision making. Leadership is achieving your potential. It’s the truth about you. It’s being who you were made to be while doing what you were made to do.  
  • Truth is a decision-making tool. Our decisions either help or hinder the truth. Results include innovation, speed, consistency, and the ability to explain ‘why’ in a satisfying way.  
  • Truth Example: Meeting that rare person who acts ‘wise beyond their years’ (knows truth) or ‘mature for their age’ (achieving potential faster than their peers) or that earns your trust quickly. Truth is noticeable and attractive.   
    • Leadership strength training workshops are the process for the rest of us to learn to be a Truth Seeker

Consequences of Truth:

  • The consequence of more than one source of truth (also know as relativism) is that everyone has their own truth or reality. If there is not one source, communication becomes impossible because there is no common frame of reference. Community must have a common language. There is no chance to do great things without community; rather people will just lull in mediocrity in isolation.    

 I believe truth comes from one source; it’s not man-made. However, I don’t know if Pilate necessarily believed that…?

About the author 

Darren Smith

Darren Smith is Co-Founder of the Authentic Leadership Institute. He is a native Texan and a graduate of Dallas Jesuit and Texas A&M University. Over the past 25 years, Darren has visited 35 countries and led 100 strategy programs. He and his wife have five children.



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