I Believe Truth is Our Only Hope
I’m no political heavy hitter or overly articulate journalist, so this is not going be filled with crafty phrases or confusing double speak. It is just one fairly unimportant female who is a wife, mother and nurse practitioner wondering about something so basic that it seems absolutely foolish to be discussing or questioning. I believe truth is our only hope but I wonder where it lost it’s value.
Throughout my life, I was taught by parents, relatives, teachers, friends, friend’ parents, law enforcement, shop owners, barbers, dentists, doctors, news reporters, and television shows (just to name a few), that lying is wrong, lying will only get you in deeper trouble, and lying should never be tolerated. If I lied to my parents, I was punished. There were consequences for lying. These consequences existed so that I would learn that truth and honesty are the right choice and lying and dishonesty will always be the wrong choice. This was considered basic parental and civic responsibility by the adults surrounding me who believed that children must be taught these values in order to grow into good people and good citizens.
I remembering realizing that lying was probably one of the most heinous things you could do in any situation. I remember understanding that having people hold you in high esteem because you tell the truth and would never allow yourself to lie for any reason is probably one of the most valuable possessions to have acquired in your life. They call it credibility. They call it a virtue. They call it a principled way of living.
I see a different version of the place where honesty is taught as a virtue now. It is a place where people do not react to lying as if it is a destructive and despicable act. It is a place where lying is not only tolerated it is perpetuated. I am amazed to discover that I have become tired of reacting with outrage to lying. I am losing the passion and energy to rail about every act of lying that flies past me on a daily basis. When did truth and honesty lose their value?
Did it happen suddenly or just little by little? I find myself questioning and wondering, “was I part of the contingent who allowed it to happen when I ignored that little feeling of discomfort as I watched the television commercials that made it humorous for some pretty blonde to trick and deceive some desperate and dumb guy as she walked away with his beer?” Did it happen during movies involving humorous and adventurous kids who lied to their parents, covering up their outrageous escapades, and ending up looking like loving and heroic children in the end? Did it happen when I hesitated to question small exaggerations and confabulations in stories told at dinner parties or at gatherings because I wouldn’t want to embarrass anyone? Where did I lose my footing and slide down the slippery slope? How is it that I have become a strand in the sing-song, proverbial web?
I don’t have the answer to these puzzling questions. I don’t know just when or why lying became tolerable. I do know that it has gotten to the point where it has a muted effect on my general sense of decency. And then…
I hear those few, singular voices, spoken in respectful and measured tone tenaciously holding to the principle of telling the truth and being honest. My body has an immediate physical reaction to those bright and trustworthy individuals. My head becomes clear, my critical thinking sharpens, and I feel proud. I remember that I have the right to doubt what does not sound genuine and factual. I not only have the right but also the responsibility to question falsehood and shun liars. I remember the lessons of my childhood and I remember that I must be protective about what my children and other children are learning from me. What will they be lying to me about when I won’t react with outrage and teach them as I was taught? Worst of all, when and where will I allow myself to slip down and twist and manipulate the truth, telling myself that is all I am really doing rather than immediately looking down at my feet in shame and embarrassment because I know that I have lied. I believe truth is our only hope to becoming and remaining good people who live in a just, compassionate, and disciplined society.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.