All of us get introduced to Truth during our early years. We are told that honesty and truth is the best policy. Truth in this context is to tell reality as it happened. It is quite understandable why this is so. The fragile fabric of society would just crumble if we did not speak truth and people prevaricated as a habit. There would be a lot of ambiguity in our day to day affairs and we would never know what really transpired.
But as we grow up we learn that there are more shades of grey to truth than appears to us at first sight. In my opinion it more important to be tactful in life than be truthful. It does not make sense to be brutally honest about something. We could state the same thing in much more gentler terms with a greater regard to sense and sensibility.
In one of India’s ancient epics, the Mahabharata, there is a story about a band of robbers questioning a sage whether he had seen a witness to their crime running away. The sage who was more worried about speaking the truth (satya) tells the robbers about the whereabouts of the witness. The robbers appropriately apprehend the witness and exterminate him. The Mahabharata goes on to say that the sage eventually suffered hell (naraga) for causing the death of an individual when he might have couched the truth in terms that would not have given any information away.
While truth is important, I think truth takes a second place in comparison to kindness or compassion. In my opinion it is more important to kind than to be correct and truthful.
Truth needs to be looked at from the perspective what is more appropriate in any given situation. We cannot just say nor do things because it is so but we also need to look at the overall effect of the act.
While truth is important in the overall scheme of thing, ones actions should be directed towards the greatest good towards the greatest number. In this context truth will have to be weighed against other virtues of kindness, compassion and tolerance.