Courts of law often ask witnesses to swear on the Bible that the testimony they give will be completely truthful.
It is intriguing that this is done when the Book itself is centred on a character who says we shouldn’t need to swear by anything. Rather when we say yes we should mean yes, and when we say no we should mean no. In other words my word should be good enough for you to trust. Making pleas to religious authority or to the lives of precious children or graves of dearly loved parents should not have to be uttered.
There is, however, a reason why such utterances are made. That’s because there is the element in humanity that tends to sidestep the truth. We justify it from time to time by minimising the nature of the lie. If it’s small, if it’s white, it’s alright, it’s allowed. If we omit to explain all the important details which in its way leads people down the wrong path, that is not our fault. IF we mess up and the consequences would be bad especially for our ego then it’s fine to give a different twist on things.
To be honest with you, I have not always been truthful. Going further, I know very well what it is to try and cover my tracks with one or two deviations from the truth. There have been situations where telling the truth would have been hugely embarrassing or worse for me. To save my own skin, to alleviate any hassle I sought to withhold certain information, whilst sharing information I thought would ‘help’ the situation.
The problem with lies, however, is that they breed a whole heap of issues that are unhealthy. They breed distrust – how can I believe what you tell me when you have a past of telling me lies. They breed fear – if I cannot trust what you say I cannot be sure you won’t hurt me. They breed division – if you’re likely to hurt me because you have a past of telling lies then not only will I not want to associate with you, I’d want others to stay away from you. Whether politely and discreetly, or bluntly I would have no hesitation in calling you any name under the sun to put people off you. There is disharmony, there is dysfunction and all because you choose to lie.
Those last words as well get to the heart of where wisdom plays an important part in being truthful. Telling the truth or a lie is a choice we make. At the time we choose, whatever the circumstances, we still elect to take one particular course of action. We can rightly be held accountable for those choices.
Choosing to be truthful often means awkward and uncomfortable engagements. Choosing truth can put us in challenging positions and upset those who would prefer we play by certain rules and be selective with information.
Choosing to be truthful also challenges us to cherish values that lead to peace, rather than policies that are convenient.
There is another choice today to be truthful. The alternative makes being truthful the best option.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden