Over the last few years, the phrase “my truth” has become very commonplace, especially among celebrities of one kind or another. Every time I hear or read it, I have a rather visceral reaction, which had caused me to question why that is.
In January of 2018, at the Golden Globes Awards ceremony, Oprah said, “Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.” That seems to be the moment when the phrase “my truth” went viral. Here are some other examples:
- “Remember, all the answers you need are inside of you; you only have to become quiet enough to hear them.” (Debbie Ford, author (deceased)) I include this quote (written in 1998) because the idea of the answers being “inside you” seems to me to be somewhat of a precursor to “my truth.”
- “As a comedian, I am obligated to tell you the truth, my truth. To share with you my beliefs, my perspective.” (Dane Cook, comedian) Cook says very explicitly that his truth means his perspective, or beliefs.
- “Adults who loved and knew me, on many occasions sat me down and told me that I was black. As you could imagine, this had a profound impact on me and soon became my truth.” (Shaun King, author) King’s truth is found in his racial identity.
- “My truth is I am gay and out, and if I can’t do that in my music, then I don’t need it.” (Billy Porter, singer) Porter’s truth is found in his sexual identity.
- “This is your life; live it by your truth.” (Mikaela’s husband talking to her on TV series Manifest, final season) Truth here is in reference to Mikaela’s lived experience and perspective.
- “Briana didn’t tell Trevor her truth because she thought that she would lose him if she did.” (Kemi to C. Hemingway (pathologist) on TV series Alert) Here “her truth” means “her story.”
- “I wouldn’t be surprised, Rusty, if you haven’t lied yet. At least as you understand the truth.” (Tommy Molto to Rusty Sabich in Scott Turow’s Innocent) The phrase “my truth” is not explicitly used, but “the truth” refers to one man’s perspective about what he believes to have happened.
- “Liberation from meaning leaves us skeptical of truth itself, comfortable only to acknowledge ‘your truth’ and ‘my truth,’ confident only in the reality of subjective feeling rather than objective fact.” (Michael J. Knowles, media host) This quote reveals a man of wisdom; Knowles understands the phrase “my truth” to be so often rooted in a person’s subjective feeling rather than objective fact.
- “I’ve always been someone who’s believed in truth. I believe truth exists. I don’t believe in relativism, a ‘your truth, my truth’ kind of a thing. However, I also believe that the truth must always be spoken in love – and that grace and truth are found in Jesus Christ.” (Jonathan Jackson, actor) Jackson also shows wisdom in his understanding of “my truth” as being rooted in relativism. He also speaks of the truth and where it is found.
In summarizing these quotes, “my truth” most often means a person’s opinions/feelings or lived experience/”story.” In one case, it refers specifically to a man’s racial identity, and in another, his sexual identity. Thankfully, we have words of wisdom from Michael J. Knowles, Jonathan Jackson, and many others. However, the concept of absolute truth has largely gone by the wayside in our pluralistic, postmodern society, and in its place we have extreme relativism, where so many define “truth” according to themselves. Furthermore, as others have noted, “my truth” is non-negotiable, which means you are not allowed to question it. This explains the visceral reaction which I noted at the outset of this post.
With Good Friday/Easter weekend just two weeks away, I thought of Jesus’ exchange with Pilate, the Roman governor, on Good Friday morning in John 18:37-38: “You are a king, then?” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” However, Pilate gave in to pressure from the crowd and had Jesus crucified. Much has been written about Pilate’s question: “What is truth?” Some have been rather sympathetic to Pilate, but I think it’s clear that Pilate was a scoffer when it came to the truth, and he was motivated by fear.
A few chapters earlier, in John 14:6, Jesus tells us very clearly what, and especially Who, the Truth is: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” Yes, Jesus Himself is the absolute Truth, and the Bible reveals Him in His earthly humility as well as His heavenly glory. For anyone reading this who is not a follower of Jesus Christ, my prayer is that this is the time you will put your faith in Him.
3 thoughts on ““My Truth” and The Truth”
Hi Keith, I believe the why the phrase “my truth” rather than “the truth” has become so popular is because of the decline of biblical or orthodox Christian beliefs in this country. I think the rise of what is called Post-Modernism has something to do with it but I’m not an intellectual so I can’t define this term.
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Keith, my last remark was unclear, I mean that I can’t define Post-Modernism, not the phrase “my truth”.
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Anthony, first of all, yes, the decline of Christianity in the U.S. has a lot to do with people abandoning absolutes (“the truth”) for relativism (“my truth”). Second, no problem; I knew what you meant in your initial comment. Here’s a link to a post I wrote about postmodernism: https://keithpetersenblog.com/2020/09/22/a-christian-critique-of-postmodernism/
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