The Truth, The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth


Being honest sounds easy and straight forward, but in the modern world of compromised values it can be more difficult than it first sounds. In this article we discuss this oath or affirmation:

the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

We wrote about the importance of honesty in our communications in this article from August 2019:

The Oath

The oath is used before giving sworn testimony by a witness during legal proceedings. In researching this article we found that there are various variations of the same oath used in countries around the world, including the Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. There are slight variations but the key part of the oath or affirmation is this:

the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

The importance of being honest is captured in the 10 Virtuous Actions, that are important for the Higher Training of Ethics:

4. No lying or holding back the truth. Always tell the truth.

The important point is that being honest includes both of the following:

  1. Telling the truth, an example of this is telling an outright lie such as “I am Dorothy Gale and I have just arrived in the Land of Oz with my dog Toto from Kansas”.
  2. Not leaving anything out, an example of this is missing out key pieces of information like my house just landed on the Wicked Witch of the West and killed her.

Typically people associate “being honest” with just the first part, “telling the truth”. But the second part, “not leaving anything out”, is equally important. The oath or affirmation specifically calls this out by saying “the whole truth”. In other words, not leaving out important details such as the accidental homicide of a witch.

People leave out key pieces of information for various reasons, such as insecurity or anxiety, a sense of fear of how people might react with judgement, or fear of the consequences of their actions. Here are some examples:

  • The whole truth might be embarrassing to an individual or a company.
  • The whole truth might create friction or trouble between friends or colleagues.
  • The whole truth might cause people to lose their friends or their job.

It is important to aspire to an unflinching honesty, particularly with our friends and family. The outcome can be more solid, trusting relationships between people. There can be many negative outcomes and actually being unflinchingly honest can be incredibly difficult.

A Brief Example

By way of example, a close friend was caught in an Internet scam. A confidence trickster slowly worked on their target over months through direct messages, emails, and phone calls over months to develop trust with our close friend. The result was our friend’s loss of a significant amount of money. Naturally we rushed to our close friend’s aide and did what we could to help them through this difficult time.

However, over time we found out that the situation was not quite as simple as it seemed. They had not told us “the whole truth”. Our close friend had hidden important details that changed the dynamics of the situation. This since led to a sense of division and distrust. We felt less willing to rush to our close friend’s aide because we felt we no longer really understood the situation or how we could best help. We wish they had told use “the whole truth” from the beginning.

Love, @HappyOps