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Truth be told S

Rich Mayfield

I do it and I’ll bet you do, too.

I do it with discretion and a certain aplomb, but do it I do.

“You’re looking great!” (There … I did it again.)

I write of lying, of course. Not the big lie of Hitler nor the foolish lie of Nixon but just those little half-truths that are more than half-lies.

“I’d love to get together for lunch!” (Oops … there’s another one.)

It’s not so much that I intend to avoid telling the truth, it’s just that not telling it is so much easier. For instance, recently one of my parishioners called and said, “I know how busy you must be but…” She went on to hesitatingly suggest that it would be helpful to her if we could meet to discuss a crucial issue troubling her. My lie came when I neglected to interrupt her plea and admit that, actually at the moment, I wasn’t very busy at all. That’s what I should have said, but it sounded rather nice to be thought of as important, so busy with crucial matters I could hardly stop to even listen to her quiet plea.

No matter what the excuse, it was still a lie.

Another example: I am cornered at a party by the town boor who proceeds to pontificate over some piece of utter foolishness. I project my most pastoral look of interest, but inside I desperately desire to be anyplace than where I am.

Why not just interrupt this guy and tell him that his opinions are of little value certainly to me but probably to the entire inter-stellar system? Instead, I lie. I act as if I really am interested in his idiotic understanding of precisely how the world is coming to an end. Do good manners contribute to a culture of lying?

One can easily concede as to how lying has value. After all, our social standing could quickly fall into jeopardy if we went about telling the truth all the time. Most of our jobs would be at risk without the occasional little white lie. One does need to get along with all kinds of different folk.

Just getting along with one folk needs a little lying now and then. When the pot-roast comes out of the oven billowing enough smoke to raise the fire alarm, it is best not to draw too much attention to the charred result. It is far better for the future of the relationship to simply smile and begin to chew.

I am meditating on this business of lying because, as we all know, our politicos are already preparing for the next national election. Every election brings with it a veritable cottage industry of lies. They range from the really stupid ones where you are certain to be caught – “Read my lips. No new taxes!” to the semi-stupid ones where it may take a little longer to be caught – “I did not have sex with that woman.”

But before we come down too hard on these political pretenders, we should all remember that what separates us from them is not the act of lying but the size of the action.

Reflecting on this very issue, a wise man once said, “Whoever is without sin can toss the first stone.”

And that’s the truth.

Rich Mayfield is pastor of the Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church and a regular columnist for the Summit Daily News.


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