“I want to know the truth.”
Truth, like the concepts of ‘lying,’ ‘liberty,’ and ‘privacy,’ is surprisingly difficult to define. Situations call for different aspects of the word. In a workplace violence investigation, people may be telling the truth as they interpret the events but may be basing their understanding on a miscommunication or a rumor.
In an infidelity investigation, a spouse may wish to know ‘the truth,’ but what they really want to know is why their partner is cheating, how long have they been unfaithful, and with whom. The suspicion of cheating has already taken root before the investigator has been contacted.
Situations often color the way one defines ‘truth.’ Some circumstances rely on stressing specific points while omitting others, so the truth reflects what the person wishes it to say. The most obvious example of this is in political agendas that show only a small portion of the picture.
This pattern of behavior is revealed in nearly every relationship involving people: whether to spare someone’s feelings, to avoid stress, to garner validation, or some other legitimate reason. Truth, then, is subjectively defined and requires a detailed understanding of what is required legally, and what is wanted or desired.
On the other hand, a ‘fact’ is something provided as evidence.
Facts may be disputed, but they are provided in a physical form (such as documents, photographs, or audio recordings) that can be experienced by people that were not present at the event. A person may be telling the truth when they say, “I saw Mr. Jones climb the ladder while carrying a bucketful of nails,” but viewing a video of Mr. Jones climbing the ladder while carrying a bucket is much harder to dispute. Facts are presented in court as evidence.
Facts and truth are not always mutually exclusive.
Facts may lead to truth, and truth may lead to facts; each may support the other, and both may lead to further investigation.
Both truth and facts are important elements in an investigation.