When I was a kid I got into the habit of lying because I was good at it, not because I was doing anything terrible that I wanted to hide. This habit persisted into adulthood until I recognized it in a moment of grace when I was in my 30s. I had said yes, that I planned to attend some event when I had no intention of going.
There was no reason for the lie. No one would think less of me for not going. My sudden realization was a shattering insight that I was not a truthful person. I began to catch my lies, correct myself and tell the truth.
In the course of that process, I gained new understandings about truth -- not only that its ramifications are much less harmful than lies but even more that simply being honest is a radical choice to benefit the common good and that it leads to deeper thinking and better solutions to all sorts of human situations. I began to grasp my college philosophy professor’s ramblings about how the good and the true yield the beautiful.
All this leads me to reflect on an often quoted and unanalyzed comment by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Defending the House Republican budget demands, he said that last year the Democrats had had majorities in both houses but had been unable to pass a budget. That’s a significant gloss over the Senate Republican intransigence that ultimately denied passage of the budget in the lame duck session, when negotiators thought they had a deal.
McConnell has a clever sound bite that is inaccurate, but holding him accountable just demands too much air time and newsprint space. So what that he’s in a position of great responsibility. And of course he’s not the only one.
It seems to me that as I have grown in my understanding and value of truthfulness, the choice of the mainstream culture has gone toward prevarication. Maybe we need to give awards for telling the truth. I’m open to nominations.