The 5 Types of “Truth”

“Truth” is polarizing.

We often latch on to the “Truth” we have and weaponize it against others.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In reality, “Truth” can be ambiguous and and create tensions. When our “Truths” conflict with others, we must recognize what plane of truth we’re talking on because it’s possible we both may be right.

The Types of Truth

1. Universal “Truth”

This exists independent of anyone’s “belief” and is tested, proven, and wildly known (ex: The Law of Gravity).

We cannot change Universal Truth. Very few things fall into this category.

2. Popular “Truth”

This is a precursor of Universal Truth. On mankind’s journey towards discovering universal laws, we often accept sub-truths for too long (ex: the Earth is the center of the universe).

This is a difficult place to be, as many scholars and experts will parade Popular Truth as Universal Truth.

We can change Popular Truth by questioning assumptions. Doing more research, and accepting changes in established thought as we get closer to Universal Truth.

3. Societal “Truth”

This is merely a standard applied at a cultural level. And that culture may be self-selected (ex: a religious institution) or not (ex: the country you were born in). For example — it is “True” that prostitution is illegal in the United States. It is also “True” that prostitution is legal in Amsterdam.

We often conflict with people here when we try to apply norms from our social groups onto others, even when we’re well-intentioned.

We can change Societal Truth via voting for new laws, or we can change the society we associate with to one that matches our values.

Is one society right and another society wrong? It’s irrelevant — it’s just different people that value different things.

4. Situational “Truth”

These truths are the exceptions to the Societal Truths.

For example, in the United States it is “True” that it is against the law to kill someone.

It is also “True” that it is legal and accepted to kill someone if you’re in the military and in combat.

We can change situational truth by changing the rules, regulations, and restrictions that apply to certain groups. Or we can change our role (ex: job title, industry, etc.) if we want to perform the behavior that was previously restricted to us.

5. Time-based “Truth”

Different standards and behaviors are often dictated by our age.

For example, it is “True” that a newborn baby cannot walk.

It is also “True” that (most) adults can walk.

The “Truth” about what human’s are capable of is not a societal dictation. We don’t condemn newborns and our expectations don’t prevent them from walking. We can’t petition for them to walk either. Only time will resolve this tension and as they grow, new “Truths” will be applied to them.

So What?

We all live in a different intersection of truth depending on our age, roles, culture, and time-period we live in.

The next time you’re in a disagreement with another human being — give them grace.

Remember that what you perceive as “Truth” may not necessarily be as universally applicable as you think.

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Erik Andersen

Erik Andersen

Senior Software Engineer with 10+ years of experience. Also an independent coach, teacher, and public speaker. My opinions are my own