The Truth Shall Set You Free
Bill Cottringer

“The beautiful irony about the truth is that it hates dark places. It despises being hidden. It loves the limelight, and it always forces itself out.” ~Mitta Xinindlu.

From my research, there seem to be two main opposing sources for interpreting the true literal and the intriguing metaphorical meanings of the biblical passage from John 8:32: “The truth shall set you free.”

The Bible

In the Bible, the truth that sets you free (King James version) is becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ and following His Word. This is what frees you from the bondage of the worldly impediments of sin, misery, ignorance, and death. This truth offers the freedom of eternal life in exchange for accepting Jesus as your savior and living His Word. Of course, the context of this biblical verse also included being an actual Jewish slave to the Roman slave owners of the time. But as an inmate and friend once reminded me, you are still a prisoner of your mind wherever you are, incarcerated or free.

Alan Watts

This Episcopal priest and Buddhist philosopher from Berkley, wrote a very interesting book in the sixties, “The Wisdom of Insecurity.” His premise was that all professed beliefs about absolute truths, including religion itself, were merely temporary security blankets until we see the wisdom of the insecurity of not relying on such security blankets, which is very freeing. These beliefs are all just different versions of false God’s to worship until you can begin to feel secure with or without them. The only real security in life comes from detachment from these beliefs in accepting what they really are—an invented human judgment and not any absolute, divine truth that we can know for sure.

Other Applications

The truth will set you free, can also be interpreted as a metaphorical admonition and challenge, to find some other absolute or relative truth that results in a genuine feeling of freedom from being captively shackled to an untruth. Here are two earlier proponents of this particular interpretation:

William Glasser

In his book “Reality Therapy” this author based his prominent theory of psychotherapy on the premise that you cannot change something in your current reality which you may not like or want, until you begin to see it as it is and not how you would prefer it to be. This idea was probably what lead me to the main idea of one of my books, “Reality Repair.” My main assertion in this book is that it is not reality that needs repairing, but rather our inaccurate and incomplete perceptions of it.

So, in this sense, the truth that will set us free is seeing a reality we are currently experiencing, precisely as it is, without inventing any artificial judgment about the quality of the experience or a pre-judgment about any expected outcome. By accepting and understanding the reality we are part of, we move to a more advantageous position to change manageable aspects for the better.

Alice Miller

This little-known Swiss psychoanalyst wrote an earlier book, “The Truth Will Set You Free,” Her ideas came from case studies of gifted children and her theory was that we can’t become healthy adults until we free ourselves from earlier repression of our true story of mistreatment as a child. The book explores how parents unconsciously form and deform the emotional lives of their children. However, book reviews were mixed with readers who challenged the scientific proofs lacking in her personal opinions. So, this alleged freeing truth is probably not an absolute one or even a credible one to fly up the relative flagpole. Never-the-less, it does expose the possibility of what culprit causes some emotional disturbances n children.

Crazier Interpretations.

I tend to want to understand the potential metaphorical meanings of such biblical verses, as “the truth shall set you free,” for practical application in my own life, here and now, to make it more fulfilling. Let’s get imaginative here and take up a challenge for understanding various connections between truth and freedom.

First, I think Alan Watts was really onto something in his book “The Wisdom of Insecurity.” He wasn’t disputing the truth of any religion or institution (including the self-help, cosmetic and pharmaceutical “religions” of today) but rather just proposing we not take any truth as absolute when it is only a temporary security blanket until we can be free to see it for what it really is. Then we can be just fine living with or without it. My fellow author friend, Gen Ferraro, has a byline that is relevant here. He believes that “truth is just a theory until proven otherwise.”

A distinct possibility, at least in my mind, is that we each have many little untruths that we over-believe in, which are likely holding us captive and not even allowing us to imagine these beliefs could possibly not be true. By this time, they become impervious to unbelieving. Unfortunately, this is how violence and wars get started when people view their tentative beliefs as permanent with a do-or-die attitude in imposing them on others.

Another intriguing possibility is that there really isn’t any truth that will set us free, because we are already free, only imagining we are not, and just needing a truth to get someplace where we already are. This is like the grace of unconditional love that life gives us at birth, which we can’t feel, until we give it away to someone else.

And finally, maybe there isn’t any one single truth that sets us totally free, only a series of little ones during our journey that results in degrees of increased freedom. In conclusion, I’ll save the least desirable alternative for last. Maybe the truth won’t set you free, but just continue as your captor. Afterall, things are rarely as they first appear.

“What you perceive as the truth can enable or disable you.” ~The author.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is retired Executive Vice President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living on the scenic Snoqualmie River and mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing); The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press); You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence); The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree); Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers); Reality Repair, (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); Thoughts on Happiness; Pearls of Wisdom: A Dog’s Tale (Covenant Books, Inc.) Coming soon: A Cliché a day will keep the Vet Away (Another Dog’s Tale). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (206) 914-1863 or