What if everybody started telling the truth?
“Do you swear to tell the truth ?” It really is an odd question when you think about it.
The implication, of course, is that we usually don’t … tell the truth, that is.
Listening to our politicians from both sides of the aisle promise what all of us know they can never deliver, is it any wonder that we have to swear to God before anyone is expected to believe us?
Surely we can all agree that such an assumption is both a great tragedy and a sad commentary on our society.
I have long had great respect for my Quaker friends.
Their tradition is rich with truth-telling. Indeed, when asked if they will “swear to tell the truth” they decline. Rightly, they are offended by the implication. Even more rightly, they seek to live their lives in truthfulness. Just because the rest of the world lies doesn’t mean the Quakers do, too.
It’s an inspiring model, don’t you think? But imagine the chaos such an attitude would cause if we all adopted it.
The first thing to go would be just about every institution within the beltway of Washington, D.C. Maybe we could save the Smithsonian, but that building with the rotunda and the other with the lovely east lawn would have to be dismantled post haste.
Lying seems to be endemic to politics. “Read my lips!” said one president. “I did not have sex with that woman.” said another. “We have irrefutable evidence of WMDs.” claimed a third.
The amount of eye-winking and elbow-giving that goes on in Washington can’t help but cause the average citizen to pause and ponder the state of our United States. What would happen, we wonder, if politicians began to be straight with us?
And what of the advertising industry? Fancy the chaos if advertisers decided to start telling the truth television shows would last 18 minutes newspapers would be one page thick our economy would be in ruins.
Of course, our religious institutions would suffer great losses as well. If preachers could only promise what they could really deliver, I have a hunch there would be far fewer folk filling up the pews.
Is it any wonder that in the past Quakers were considered both anti-American and anti-Christian? Such truth-telling undermines the very foundations of our social structures.
Hitler rose to power on the premise of something called “The Big Lie.” Essentially, it meant that if you told a huge fabrication often enough most people would come to believe it. We all know how far such an insidious principle propelled him.
We are the victims of a world of little lies. We encounter them all so often that, even if we don’t really believe them, we act as if we do. We’ve come to accept as truth what we know to be false. We’ve given up.
It’s a sad scenario but it doesn’t have to be.
With a little courage and a renewed sense of pride, we can start honoring the truth again. We can start rejecting the little lies that surround us. We can start putting value on integrity and honesty. We can start in our own homes and businesses.
“How are you doing?” we could ask only when we really want to know the answer.
“I’m sorry,” we could say only when we change our behavior.
“Honesty is the best policy,” we could proclaim only when we act as if it is the only policy.
Rich Mayfield writes a
Saturday column for the Summit Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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