“How do I look? Tell me the truth.” In this context, what do we mean by “the truth”? We mean we want the person to set aside her concerns about feelings, and tell us exactly what she sees and thinks. We do not mean the universal truth. There is no such thing anyway. Even the law of gravity can be proven false in the future through new scientific discoveries. When we use the word “truth”, we simply mean what we individually know and think. Even if someone presumably knows the universal truth, we are generally not very interested in that type of truth.
“Which is more important: truth or feelings?” To a question like this, I think most people would answer “truth.” Yet in practice, we do the opposite. We sacrifice the truth for the sake of managing people’s feelings. This is our ultimate lie about lying. When we teach our kids how to socialize, for the most part, we are teaching them how to tactfully lie or suppress the truth. But at the same time, we tell them that lying is bad and that they should always tell the truth.
Even though we do this left and right every day, when we discover that someone lied to us, we furiously retort, “You lied to me!” Why should this be a surprise? In order to survive in this society where this is the norm, we have to lie all the time. We shouldn’t be surprised when we are lied to.
To an autistic mind, this is one of the most difficult social conventions to understand and accept; lie but tell the truth. Since an autistic mind has trouble relying on his instincts to navigate the social situations, he must rely heavily on logic, but, from his logical perspective, “lie but tell the truth” does not compute. Not only that, an autistic mind has trouble understanding how people can lie and not know that they are lying, and accuse others of lying. If everyone can at least admit that they are lying all the time, it would be a lot easier to an autistic mind.
Just because this is how the majority of people prefer to interact with one another, it does not mean that it’s the right or better way. It’s just a convention established through the power of the majority. Just as women have to adopt the conventions established by men in the business world, autistic minds have to adopt this convention of lying and not be aware of it.
If it’s any consolation to autistic minds, the history of civilization has so far been progressing towards a more autistic way of communicating. That is, we humans are relying more and more on reason instead of feelings, instincts, or intuitions as a way to get along with one another with vastly different values and beliefs. Thankfully, we can now tell the type of truth that would have lead to our heads getting chopped many centuries ago.