Three Sides Become One-Sided

March 5, 2013

Something this morning made me think of the saying “There are three sides to every story: yours, theirs, and the truth.”

I suppose there’s a lot of truth to that in certain situations, but it’s worth noting that people I’ve heard say this a lot seem to take it too seriously. I place this in a collection of well-intentioned sayings that make sense when used occasionally, but tend to get taken extremely literally and overused.

The saying is meant to remind us that we each perceive (and sometimes repeat) a story differently and it’s not always wise to take one person’s account as gospel, especially if it conflicts with another’s version. The problem with it when used as a general rule is that it assumes no one can be objective in any way or reliably honest, and almost seems to urge us not to believe anyone. Even hearing both people’s versions, according to this saying, is only two-thirds of the whole picture.

The effect it seems to have on some is a cheap way to dismiss people entirely, as I’ve frequently heard it used in a context that invalidates someone’s opinion with the wave of a hand. One may hear Bob’s version of a story and automatically decide that hearing Joe’s version is irrelevant, as “neither are likely to be reliable.” (Yet this ignores the hypocrisy that one still listened to Bob’s version and was obviously affected by it.) I’ll avoid even going down the discussion of how it also erroneously assumes that all people are equally honest/dishonest or objective/prone to exaggeration.

What amuses me about this saying is it’s often said by supposedly very positive people, often on Facebook while throwing around platitudes as though it makes them sound sage-like. I wonder if they ever have the inkling of how cynical they’ve made this otherwise positive saying throwing it around in such a way.


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One Response to Three Sides Become One-Sided

  1. Karen Winters on March 5, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Oh Brian! You left this wide open for me because I never use this saying and do you know why? Because “mothers are always right!” You had to know this was coming! LOL. Nice article though, I always like seeing the other side of things like this. :)

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