Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. Ephesians 4:25
“I cannot tell a lie,” said the lad George Washington, confessing that he did cut down the cherry tree. We’ve come a long ways from those days. Time Magazine says everybody is doing it today, something which would have caused our honest forebears to say, “We’ve gone to the devil!”
A poll says that more than half the people interviewed admit they are less honest today than they were, say, even 10 years ago. While the majority of people today believe complete honesty is important with family members and close friends, the numbers thin rapidly when it comes to extending that same standard to the world about us. Why not? Everybody else is doing it–from politicians to educators.
Has lying become acceptable today? Has truth become so subjective that it’s O.K. to be less than forthright and honest? For one thing, we no longer call it lying. The preferred term is “misinformation,” a more acceptable term in society today. There is an attitude which pervades society: If you can get away it, do it.
This attitude applies to almost every aspect of life today. Job applicants doctor their resumes, making the applicant look better qualified than he or she actually is. Students feel no compunction about cheating on exams. Husbands feel no need to tell their wives exactly what they are doing when they are on a business trip away from home. And quickly our children catch on. Their teachers are parents, politicians, television and sports personalities, our heroes and heroines, even our priests or pastors.
Lies that give the fabricator an advantage he or she would otherwise not have, such as putting the blame for failure on someone else, is not only standard practice but considered “smart” today. In his book Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life, philosopher Sissela Bok says, “To win an election, to increase one’s income, to outsell competitors–such motives impel many to participate in forms of duplicity they might otherwise resist.” In other words, people today think that if you can get ahead by lying, go ahead and do it. If you don’t, the next guy will. You begin to feel that if you don’t lie, you’re a sucker or just plain stupid.
There is “a growing degree of cynicism and sophistication in our society–a sense that all things are relative and that nothing is absolutely right or wrong,” says Jody Powell, a thoughtful observer of how life is changing today.
Is it any wonder that the future of our children and grandchildren is in peril? An advertising executive, Jerry Femina, says, “We’re conceived, born and deceived. By the time someone reaches age 10, he’s pretty cynical.”
Frankly, we have no one to blame but ourselves. You can castigate the media, the politicians, the world and the devil, but you parents are your child’s greatest teacher.
Telling the truth is not a moral option in a world of grays and indifference; it is the fabric, the glue that holds all relationships together. When you cannot trust someone to tell you the truth, you become cynical, uncertain, and indifferent. You never know whether someone is really telling it like it is. It’s high time we turned back to the absolutes which have kept society together, and learn to tell the truth no matter how painful it may be. No matter what society accepts and practices, God’s demand is unchanged: Tell the truth!
Resource reading: Psalm 52:1-15.