Asking Questions Authenticity Diversity of Thought Self awareness

“You can’t handle the truth.”

There’s always context, and there’s always an alternative perspective.

Remember this legendary line from the movie a Few Good Men?

Jack Nicholson’s character is questioned by a young and inexperienced lawyer (Tom Cruise) trying to uncover unethical practices within the US Marine Corps.

The truth is that besides the regular code of conduct, an alternative set of rules exists to facilitate hierarchy to execute ‘what’s needed to protect the country.’

After an intense line of questioning, Jack’s character eventually admits in anger that additional rules exist and often trump what’s supposed to be done.

What everybody already knew for a long time has now finally been confirmed by a superior officer.

The existence of alternative truth.

The movie became an instant classic, primarily because of the line of questioning and the one sentence that has become the title of this insight.

“You can’t handle the truth.”

Jack Nicholson in a Few Good Men

Jack’s character is authentic, but also a bully.

Somebody who demands respect and ‘leads’ by his own set of rules.

Somebody who doesn’t like to face criticism or objections to his opinions.

Somebody who expects people to obey his orders and do what they’re told to do.

We all know people like this.

People with a blown-up ego.

People whose tenure in hierarchical roles has clouded their perspective of alternative truth.

Their truth is THE truth.

People who are proud of being authentic and always upfront with people, not hesitating to abuse the word authentic.

People who surround themselves with those who blindly obey and won’t criticize.

Because they’re afraid.

Before I continue, I want to let you know that I’m not the person described above.

I don’t think people fear criticizing me, sharing their perspectives, or providing feedback about my behavior.

I have an ego like everyone else, but I wouldn’t say it’s inflated.

I also don’t think my truth is always the truth. More often, it’s not.

Because there’s always context, and there’s always an alternative perspective.


For a long time, I also thought that saying what you believe in every circumstance was THE example of being authentic.

That being yourself always was a badge of honor.

It’s a bit of a Dutch character trade, but it’s changing due to my country’s increased global context and diversity.

Changing, but not without a struggle. We also have our pride.

Being authentic is not about being yourself always and saying what you think under every circumstance.

Being authentic is not conveying your truth as THE truth.

Being authentic is knowing yourself well and understanding your context and the impact you have.


Authentic people can find the sweet spot between themself and their context.

Just flush a tennis ball from the middle of your racket, and you know what I mean.

Everything out of center feels off.

I had to learn that my truth is not always THE truth.

I had to learn that how I say things and when I say them matters.

I had to learn that my gift of seeing behavior patterns, reading a room, smelling fear, and understanding team dynamics is not always a gift to everyone.

It puts people off.

Always calling it out may make you be perceived as negative or pessimistic.

The reality is I’m an optimist.

I see opportunity everywhere and believe in the good of humankind.

I also believe that when people can truly be authentic with each other, a lot more is possible.

But that requires time, selflessness, listening, and hard work.

That’s when we’re all able to handle the truth.

Your turn: can you handle the truth?

Do more of what makes you happy!


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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