Most of us were taught the importance of telling the truth. Our parents emphasized this by telling us we would be in more trouble if we didn't. In school we were told the same thing, and we heard how George Washington told his father "I cannot tell a lie. I cut down the cherry tree." We later learn that was a fabrication invented by an early biographer of our first president. And as the years went by, we read many books and saw many movies where someone was being interrogated and told it would be better for them if they told the truth, which often ended with bad results for the one being questioned, especially if the interrogator was a bad guy. To some extent this changed our seeing the world in black and white. Over time we started seeing shades of gray. Maybe it started when we found ourselves still being punished when we told the truth and wondered if it was really a lesser punishment because we'd been honest.
Still most of us, I hope, find the examples of lies, cheating and dishonesty that we read or hear about on the news repugnant. We've learned of college students at Harvard cheating, school administrators fudging their student rosters to hide how their schools are really doing and Ponzi schemes of all kinds. Recently we found out about writers, sometimes well-known ones, who have paid reviewers to give them good reviews to move their books up on the best seller or Amazon lists. That can only make us wonder how valid the Amazon lists actually are. One writer blogged about doing it as if he'd found a wonderful new way to market his book. I can only hope most writers are more ethical than that.
And, of course, now with a major election season in full swing, the lies, half-truths, hyperbole and misleading statements are filling the media nonstop. PolitiFact and FactCheck.org are working overtime to get the actual truth out there, but I'm not sure how many people look for those fact checks. Do they only get their candidate information from the ads? I hope not because the largest amount of money ever raised for campaign advertising is being poured into campaign coffers mostly be a few very wealthy people. A lot of people think all politicians are dishonest. Unfortunately some are, but I don't believe the majority are. Misguided maybe, according to my opinion, but there are a lot of good politicians who want to make our country better. I may not agree with the opposite party's viewpoints, but I don't think it necessarily makes them totally dishonest. (By the way, I have no idea who the men in the picture are so I'm not impugning their character in any way.)
That leaves us with the "In Between." Most small children blurt out the truth even if it's offensive like "You look funny," although at another time they can blame a sibling or an imaginary character for doing something they themselves did. As we mature we learn the value of the white lie; the way of fudging the truth so as not to hurt some one's feelings. When we get a gift we neither like nor can use, we don't tell the giver that. We look for something nice to say about it while wondering how we can get away with not wearing it or displaying it in our home. If someone asks us how we like their new dress, we evade telling them our true opinion by saying something like we love the color, but don't tell them it's very unflattering.
Cheating is a lie I have trouble condoning. Whether it's cheating at a game - how can anyone feel they really won if they cheated to win - or cheating on your income tax or something else. Of course, everyone has excuses if they're caught.
Is lying more prevalent today than it was in the so called good old days? I don't think so. Human nature being what it is, there have always been those who lied and cheated to get what they want. I think there's just more opportunity to be found out today through the Internet. Of course, there are more opportunities to lie, cheat and steal through the Internet, too. As for myself, I try to always be honest, except for those kind, little, white lies, and even those I try to avoid by not saying anything when possible. Guilty feelings are a burden on the soul and hard to live with.
When do you feel it's okay to stretch the truth?
Have you ever been caught out in a lie?