Monday, October 10, 2016

Making America Good Again: The Truth about Lying

Americans used to believe honesty was a virtue.   We taught our children the story of George Washington telling his father, "I cannot tell a lie."  We learned from the boy who cried "Wolf!" the consequences of lying repeatedly.  We said to each other:  "Honesty is the best policy."  We still give honesty a polite nod, but only when it is expedient. 

I feel a bit like the Ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes who went through his town in broad daylight with a lantern looking for one honest person.  He was a Cynic.  I'm becoming one. 

Where can we find honest people these days?  

Not among our politicians for sure.  Lies are part and parcel of what they tell us to sway us to support them. Ben Carson, one of the Republican candidates for president this year, said he would rather lose the election than lie.  Neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Trump would even consider saying such a thing.  How sad. 

We don't even expect the news media - through the main stream or social outlets - to tell us the truth.  Like with the politicians, truth has taken a back seat to profits and political agendas.  Even the fact-checkers have their own motives.  In response, we choose to consume what we want to believe. 

But lying is not just epidemic in politics and the media.  One of the most frightening places I see a lack of truth these days is in our justice system.  What happened to witnesses, as well as the judges, attorneys and law enforcement officers to whom the system is entrusted, actually telling "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth"?  Justice can only survive when the truth is told.

A culture of lying can have earth-shattering consequences.  There's a great little book by Andy Andrews:  "How Do You Kill 11 MILLION PEOPLE?"  The answer:  "You lie to them."  His example is the Holocaust. What will the consequences of lying be in our generation?

Americans used to agree that a basic value we shared was the importance of truth.   One of the 10 Commandments is:  "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."  Don't lie about the other guy.   Jesus said, "But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’" Simply tell the truth.

And that is hard to do.  It's not just the politicians, journalists and lawyers.  We all lie because we are all selfish. Sometimes we tell "white lies" to cover minor indiscretions, sometimes we tell "big lies" that cost others their lives and livelihoods. We spend lots of time justifying ourselves, splitting hairs about when it might be OK to lie, or when lies don't really matter, or when we think lies are essential. 

We have moved away from the idea that lying is a WRONG thing to do.  Lying is now a tolerated, everybody-does-it kind of thing.  When we accept as normal the daily dose of lies we get from our leaders, our news, and even from our friends, the easier it becomes for us to stop telling the truth as well. 

To start to put an end to the cultural epidemic of lying in America, we need to stop lying ourselves. 

Here's today's challenge.  Go 24 hours without telling a lie, not even a little-bitty white lie.  No lies at all. 

Start by being truthful with yourself and those closest to you. Before you speak, decide if what you want to say must be said.  Even if it is true, it might not be necessary.  If it is, say it in a loving way.  Do it with the other person's interest in mind.  Do it in a way that is kind and compassionate.  

Your goal is to avoid telling lies, big ones and little ones. 

Then go the next 24 hours without telling a lie.  Repeat each day until it becomes a habit!  Not lying, or tolerating the lies of others, will go a long way to Making America Good Again. 

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