Truth, Like Beauty, Is In The Eye Of the Beholder And The Best Advice I Ever Received On How To Keep Your Truth To Yourself

I first started writing this blog because my Judicial Assistant, who became and is a dear long (we never say old) friend, was going to become a grandmother, and she wanted me to share the “grandma lessons” I had learned. It was not long after that, I realized another purpose for the blog was for me to share “life lessons” for my grandchildren to have when I am no longer here to answer their questions or share life lessons, our memories, family traditions and rituals.  This blog post is one of the latter.

What does it mean when beauty is in the eyes of the beholder?

“’Beauty in the eye of the beholder’ has a literal meaning: that the perception of beauty is subjective – people can have differing opinions on what is beautiful. So what one person perceives as flawless and captivating might be ordinary or unappealing to another.”

So, I would opine, is truth in the eye of the beholder.

As a circuit judge in Florida for nearly twenty years, hour after hour and day after day, I heard about incidents to which only two people participated and were present.  We used to call this “he said, she said,” and as the judge I was to dispense a ruling, that could be life changing for the litigants.

I found it an incredible task to determine what actually occurred.  Although the litigants—the public—and even their lawyers, thought that was my job, it was not, and I tried to explain that before a ruling which had far reaching consequences to their lives.

I explained that my job as a judge was to resolve a dispute that two people, after making their best efforts, could not resolve for themselves.  It was not about being “right,” it was about applying the facts to the law, and making my best determination after deliberation and contemplation, to resolve the dispute for those who could not do so themselves. There were higher courts to bring an appeal of my ruling, if unhappy with it. It seemed to me that most rulings made both parties unhappy because of how each perceived their truth and how I perceived their truth.


I acknowledged each of them believed he or she was telling the truth.

I acknowledged each of them was telling THEIR TRUTH. 

One would argue to me the other was lying, even that the lawyer was lying in his argument to me which is not evidence for me to consider in my ruling.  Most lay people do not know the difference of the impact on a ruling between testimony under oath by the party, which was evidence for me to consider in my ruling, and argument by the lawyer, which was not to be considered in my ruling.

It was entirely possible that there was bold faced lying going on as each side would have good reason to present their version that gave them an advantage, and cause them to embellish, and exaggerate, and hope that the bull— would favorably influence my ruling. Yes, rules governed what a lawyer could present to a judge in Florida and what a lawyer must do rather than allow a client to lie under oath.

I repeated my mantra that no adult likes to be told what to do, ordered to do something or not do something, told how to divide their property, spend their money, raise their children and be told when he or she could see their children.

So, what does this have to do with the guest essay editorial that precipitated this blog post attempt to impart some life lessons to my grandchildren? 

Patti Davis, President Ronald Reagan’s daughter, imparted many outstanding life lessons on truth to be recognized and shared in her guest essay, opinion piece, first printed in the New York Times, January 7, 2023, “Prince Harry and the Value of Silence,” 

Here are some of Patti Davis’ life lessons:

“My justification in writing a book [her autobiography] I now wish I hadn’t written . . . was very similar to what I understand to be Harry’s reasoning. I wanted to tell the truth, I wanted to set the record straight. Naïvely, I thought if I put my own feelings and my own truth out there for the world to read, my family might also come to understand me.. . . Of course, people generally don’t respond well to being embarrassed and exposed in public.”

“And in the ensuing years, I’ve learned something about truth: It’s way more complicated than it seems when we’re young. There isn’t just one truth, our truth — the other people who inhabit our story have their truths as well.”

This Grandma’s Life Lessons number 1 and 2 and 3 for my grandchildren:

Your truth is not going to be perceived as the truth, as the other people’s truth of the same memory will be different.

Do not embarrass or expose anyone in public.  It is not necessary to immediately be correct. Speak to the person in private and give them the opportunity to correct themselves.

Read the last two sentences of Patti Davis’ words at the end of the quote above and commit them to memory.

Patti Davis added:

“Years ago, someone asked me what I would say to my younger self if I could. Without hesitating I answered: “That’s easy. I’d have said, ‘Be quiet.’” Not forever. But until I could stand back and look at things through a wider lens. Until I understood that words have consequences, and they last a really long time.”

This Grandma’s Life Lessons 4, 5, and 6 for my grandchildren:

If you cannot say anything nice, say nothing.  Your voice is not going to change the whatever, but will be remembered forever and may not be forgiven.

Words have consequences, sometimes serious, sometimes grave, and words last longer than you anticipate.

It takes living many years to have the experience and wisdom to understand how incredible this advice is, as only with life experience, can one know how important it is to be humble enough to know what you have to say is not imperative or important to impart and to just be quiet.

Patti Davis’ conclusion is better than anything I could tell you in these life lessons about truth, my grandchildren:

“ Silence gives you room, it gives you distance, and it lets you look at your experiences more completely, without the temptation to even the score. Sometime in the years ahead, Harry may look back as I did and wish he could unspeak what he has said.”

“I’ve learned something else about truth: Not every truth has to be told to the entire world. . . .

not everything needs to be shared, a truth that silence can teach. Harry seems to have operated on the dictum that “Silence is not an option.” I would, respectfully, suggest to him that it is.”

The ethical rules that governed me as a judge, and even in my life outside the courtroom, taught me to be quiet and not share, about my personal life, my opinions, even recommendations as to vendors, everything, as my words might be taken to have outsized importance because they came out of the mouth of a judge. It actually makes life easier and less stressful to listen carefully to Patti Davis’ words.

So, what is the best advice I ever received on how to keep your truth to yourself?

 It came from Tony Garguilo, my campaign manager, and can be useful for everyone.

Tony advised: Judges should not make affirmative statements, as judges should not, and in most cases, cannot, under the Judicial Code of Ethics that governs judges in Florida, respond to questions. 

When someone asks you a question, respond with a question.

“If you are asking me —— this must be important to you. Why is it important to you?” (A common question — add in the blank “about abortion”)

Invariably, the questioner would respond enthusiastically (according to Tony—most people are not interested in your answer but want an opportunity to talk) and at the end of their truth say: you must be a great judge because you are a good listener.

This Grandma’s final life lesson for today:

It is much better and more important for you to be a good listener than a good truth teller.

Joy to my grandchildren,


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