The Truth Will Set You Free2 (John 8: 31-32)
Bill Cottringer

“The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.” ~David Foster Wallace, author.

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 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.

Personally, I believe there is a hidden metaphorical challenge in these six words. In our common pursuit of freedom, we all seem to have to discover a few critical absolute truths to be unshackled from all the alluring half-truths, relative truths, and false beliefs that hold us hostage. Below are some of these few critical truths that can result in an unmistakable sense of inner freedom and peace of mind.

Alan Watts
This Episcopal priest and Buddhist philosopher from Berkley, wrote a very interesting book, “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 without them and then, ironically, they become more real and substantive to experience. The only real security in life comes from detachment from these beliefs in accepting what they really are—an invented human fiat and finger pointing toward the truth and not any absolute, inherently divine truth.

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 premise in this book is that it is not reality that needs repairing, but rather our faulty, inaccurate, and incomplete perceptions of it. So, in this sense, the truth that will set your free is seeing a reality we are currently experiencing, precisely as it is, without an artificial judgment about the quality of the experience or a pre-judgment about any expected outcome or pre-existing cause.

A Compromise

A popular notion used in academic circles, businesses, and helping professions is mindfulness, a concept developed by Ellen Langer from earlier Eastern philosophies of Taoism, Buddhism and Hinduism.. Mindfulness is the essence of engagement. Such engagement in life involves paying more attention to the present moment, rather than dwelling on the past memories or anticipating the future. The primary purpose of mindfulness is to be more present in the now moment to notice new things.

The new things are those that you may have been missing all along, which have been hindering your pursuit of true freedom. For instance, if you fail to notice the subtle choice in your reactions to what happens to you at any given time, because you believe you either have more or less control over these things than you really do, you miss the opportunity to increase your ability to gradually take back the steering wheel and become the author of your own life story. But a caveat here, as mindfulness is becoming a cult, and one truth worth embracing is that anything in too much excess can have undesirable side effects in unwanted problems.

Below are some of these few critical truths that can result in an unmistakable sense of inner freedom and peace of mind.


To a large degree, what you see as “true,” or not, depends mostly on from where in time and place you are doing the looking. The goal is to find the best perspective that allows you to see a bigger picture and the whole truth. This best viewpoint is in the center of life, which is using mindfulness in staying more in the eternal now moment, becoming more aware of noticing things you have been failing to notice all along. Another productive perspective is in the middle of important issues, where you can see in any direction, left and right, up and down, inside and out. The more you see, the more likely you will find the truth that sets you free from the many distractions that hold you hostage in a psychic prison.


There are many moral theories claiming to represent absolute truth, but unfortunately each makes a potentially fatal assumption. This is even true for the Bible’s Golden Rule, which assumes that all people want to be treated in a good, helpful way, not a harmful, destructive one, which unfortunately doesn’t always hold true. Other moral philosophies depend upon what consequences happen from acts, and if the consequences aren’t good for anyone, then we just have immorality. So, until AI defines absolute morality objectively, devoid of inhibiting beliefs and their protective emotionality, the only trustworthy moral compass is our inner conscience aided with mindfulness, carefully discerning what is good and true from what isn’t.


Money is the great mind trap in having enough is never quite enough. One way to avoid this treadmill to nowhere comes from the Bible. Like using the talents which you were born with to achieve more, managing money smartly is the best way to get more. The key here, is to shift focus from wanting more money to do more, to doing more with what money you have, to get more. And the way the great Bank of Life works is that you must make deposits before you get to make any withdrawals. We wouldn’t have a national debt if our government played by life’s rules.


Probably the greatest challenge we all have in common is dealing with the constant adversities, conflicts and problems that confront us, and this includes uncomfortable change. Until we learn to become who we have pretended to be and develop a strong character to deal with unwanted problems and resolve conflicts head on and adapt to change effectively, we are only victims, villains, or bystanders on the sidelines. To become heroes, we must lean in the direction of optimism with inner directedness, hope and resilience. Change and adversity are inevitable part of life and trying to avoid these realities is an incarceration of its own.


There are certain realities we can change and make better, once we understand them, and there are others we do better by learning how to accept them graciously. We simply don’t have the ability of salmon to swim upstream and go back and forth between fresh and salt water. A friend of mind likened our limitations to being born as orange tree with the potential to be the best orange tree in the orchard, but not able to grow into a giant oak or a flowering dogwood. Trying to become the best orange tree in the orchard is quite enough of a worthy challenge, at least for one lifetime.


The truth in love is using it as a verb, in understanding, accepting and partnering with life to make it an unforgettable experience for as many people and things in nature as you can love, understand, and appreciate. The truest form of love is unconditional love and fortunately we humans can learn to develop this virtue with others, by first learning to forgive and love ourselves and then experiencing unconditional love through our children and favorite household animals. The marvelous opportunity to experience life may be the best living example of unconditional love given freely to us.


The main way we interact with life and others is through the use of words to express our thoughts, beliefs, and feelings, so knowing and speaking the truth is important in perfecting our communication. The best way to achieve this, is to use a supportive tone which opens communication, and intentionally avoiding one which results in defensiveness and shuts down communication. The most effective communication involves conveying qualities of freedom, equality, acceptance, empathy, spontaneity, and tentativeness. Ineffective communication is a result of implying the opposite things to others—control superiority, judgment, insensitivity, manipulation and over-certainty.

In conclusion, I have always felt we were meant to be in a mutually beneficial partnership with life, rather than separated as an enemy or adversary in conflict. Although we were born into an already existing life with its own set of rules an truths, there true value only comes from us finding and using them to help ourselves and others to be freer to become who we were born to be.

“The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.” ~Aung San Suu Kyi.

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