Truth, Fairness, Benefits, and Friendship

By: Sinta Triyani

“Est-ce conforme à la vérité ? Est-ce loyal de part et d’autre ? Est-ce susceptible de stimuler la bonne volonté réciproque et de créer de meilleures relations amicales ? Est-ce profitable à tous les intéressés?[1]


Questions above are Four-Way Test questions in French. I have some reasons and short story about why I like to put those words above. Here is the story.

I was in the end of teenage period of my life, and there were many decisions I had to choose. Some of them were decided based on the advices and suggestions I found in my surrounding: my parents, sisters, friends, even older friends and teachers. The rests were too personal to share with, so I tried to think by myself. Of course it was not easy. It was not a simple game when I needed to choose which university I could get higher education, which organization I wanted to be involved, what kind of friendship I wanted to relate with, and what about the spirit, dreams, reality, failure, success, and so on. By degree, in line with I grew older out of my childhood, I found that the problems had not being simpler and fewer. Contrary, its complexity persuaded me to be unwilling facing the future. I wondered if I could extent my childhood, my beloved comforting world. In my troubled time, it would be easy to ask, “Mom, Dad, what should I do if …” No, of course that was not real. But yes, welcome to the maturity; inevitable process in my life, everybody’s life. And look, there is no undo button in this life!

I realize that such thoughts are everyone’s struggle under difficulties and challenges in upcoming days, especially for late teenagers. I know that I am not alone. In this stage, I have learned that I should have a set of principles under the common nature laws. They are proven to be best guidance system; naturally guides the way I should walk in or the options I should choose. It is much better than parroting others. Well, this is about the maturity, not just about to be famous and popular in first stage of university. Life is longer than first couple semester, isn’t it?

The common nature laws I state above are about the nature causalities in this universe. I mean, everybody has 24 hours a day; whatever your religion, how much your digit on bank account, we will fall if we try to jump from skyscraper; all of us could die one day; we need foods, air, water, clothes, and housing for life; and everybody needs to be happy and wealthy. The other law is about just serving another as good as you want to be served. Those are common nature laws on this Earth.

Based on these laws, we should state some principles those will suitable with us. The principles help us to choose the most urgent thing among the amusing options. These are connected to the vision of our whole life. Fortunately, my family, friends, and books I had read gave me some principles I need much. Furthermore, finally I found a set of principles those encompass the previous principles. I am talking about the Four-Way Test.

The test is an ethical guideline which is adopted by Rotary International[2] since January of 1943[3]. The Four-Way Test has been helping every Rotarian (member of Rotary Club) in deciding, evaluating, and improve the service to bring excellence to human being. It is really a significant tool to Rotary’s motto: “Service above Self”, that is being applied to various places: community, workplace, professional club, even neighborhood.

The Four-Way Test consists of four profound questions. When I was trying to answer the questions a while ago, I found that the questions sharply shaped my life: the vision, goals, desires; and then I felt no worried anymore if I could take one of maze choices those are dotted in my life. The questions are “Is it the truth?”, “Is it fair to all concerned?”, “Will it build good will and better friendship?”, and “Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”.

The first question is “Is it the truth?”. Automatically, I replied, “What is the truth?”. For some people, truth is a claim for actions, policies, choices, or behavior those are based on the reality and facts. Truth means no fraudulences. There is no hidden agenda or something like that which implies lies, stray of goals, and so on. Unfortunately, truth is the most debatable topic in the world. Someone’s truth may differ with another’s truth. We can say a lot of ideologies, political views, even nationalities and religions those have their own perspective of truth.

Some of portion of the truth is acceptable by most people, but there are still differences, moreover, controversies among them. Just turn on your television and watch the news. The conflicts between countries, genocides, injustice among people, even intolerance among major religions in this lovely planet got started from difference perspective of the truth. When the truth is being institutionalized, the possibilities for other perspective are closed soon. It is really not good. At least for civilized people.

Well, I think we should disaggregate truth from beliefs. I prefer call institutionalized truth as a belief system. Truth itself is our own perspective based on the belief. It brings reality that everybody has his/her own truth. There will be over six billion truth on the earth. So, when we talk about truth, we are discussing about someone’s perspective. There won’t be true or false, because the basis of the truth – I think – is the same. Truth came from deeper side of our heart. I believe that all humankind understands this: do to others what you want them to do for you. Serve others like you want to be served.

If you do not like person who crosses the traffic light when it reds, do not do like that. If you want to be appreciated and respected, just do it for others. If we do not like to be cheated, so do not try to bribe the officer. Doing truth is reassuring our life. I believe that. This first question of Four-Way Test screens my what-to-do and what-to-plan sheets.

“Is it fair to all concerned?” is the next question. It will be the constraint of our personal truth. I mean, when two or more kinds of truth opposite each other, there will be addition factor: fairness. It is almost impossible to be fair to all man in this world in the same time. When somebody decides to stop smoking for his health (and it is much suggested by his doctor), he will inflict a financial lost for tobacco farmers, although a penny. The solution is how far the fairness works to concerned people around him: his wife, kids, and friends.

One day in my life, I got an amusing choice. That year, I studied in a well known private university. I had a very good rank of achievement, and I was going to accept such certificate. But, deep down in my heart, I feel unhappy. I wanted to quit and applied to another university that provided program I wanted to join with. It was a high risk decision: far away from home, limited financial support, no acceptance guarantee, and a lot of people, even my family, suggested me to not doing that. Those days of hesitation, I found that I should follow the truth in my heart. I feel that my vision would grow in the new place. I had a set of new dreams, goals, and achievements. Much more challenging, but it is impressive. When I thought about its fairness, I talked to myself that I couldn’t make all my friends, parents, including myself to be satisfied in the same time. But I would make them more satisfied by showing them the achievements of my life; not only one-semester achievement. I would like to say that it is fair for all concerned.

My new subject then is French Language. When I wrote the Four-Way Test in French in the first paragraph, I will show you that this test has been really working.

The next question is “Will it build goodwill and better friendship?” I like this part. I guess all of us know people – at least one person – who got best achievements in his/her life, but leak of good relationship with others. The fairness in the previous question must be applied with full of respect to the humanity: its multiculturalism, differences, related conditions, social-economy factors, personal views, etc.  For example, based on my personal experience, it is not always easy to throw garbage away to the proper bin. I mean, in my current city, there are not sufficient public garbage bin along the road. Some law breakers throw the garbage just on the road side or – ironically – throw it into river. I have an opportunity to throw my garbage in garbage banishment. But, neither do my neighbors. So, than educating them to throw garbage properly (and it would cause conflict), it is better to invite them to make garbage wasting system together. The environment will get advantage as much as friendship.

The previous Four-Way Test’s question is very close related to the last question: “Will it be beneficial to all concerned?” Goodwill, friendship, and kinds of relationships among people will take better effect when they get benefits from entire relation. I am not talking about money, but benefit. I believe that most of our needs could be fulfilled by other people, and practically, we cannot live in this world alone.

These last two questions are very important when I tried to join the student’s club. Almost all clubs were good, expressed the truth, fairness, and challenging. But, based on my talents and ability, I just could choose one or two club those would boost my ability to be beneficial to others. When I saw that it did not work, I turned to make my own project to be more beneficial. It was easy. Imagine if I did not have any principles that guided me in choosing the options.

Then, I remember Javanese aphorism which is similar with Four-Way Test. It is “Sepi ing pamrih, rame ing gawe; mamayu hayuning bawana”. It is freely translated as that we should not expect the reward of doing something, but contrary do the service to others diligently and sincerely, in order to beautify the world, becoming better place with full of peace, joy, wealth, and harmony.

Finally, I am calling to all youth people around the world, that the life is not as hard as you thought. It is great to be authentic based on yourself, but always keep on eye to the principles you had put on your heart. It will guide you well.


[2] Rotary International is a worldwide organization with more 1.2 members (Rotarian) from any field: business, professional, and community leader. They provide service and encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world. Now, there are 33,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries. The motto of Rotary is “Service Above Self”. (Cited from

[3] Originally, the Four-Way Test was written by Herbert J. Taylor (1893-1978) during the Great Depression (1932). He was the president of Rotary Club Chicago in the 1939-1940, and elected to be Rotary International president in 1954-1955. This Four-Way Test had developed from 100 words written to Club Aluminum Company of Chicago. The words then reduced to 7 questions, and then simplified into 4 questions. Rotary International officially adopted this ethical and “purely subjective form of self analysis” in January of 1943. (Cited from,, and


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