Truth matters

Photo of soaring bird.
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

How important is your integrity?

For me, it is a big deal. Integrity is everything.

Integrity is earned. It comes from repeatedly doing what you say you are going to do. It comes from telling the truth. It creates trust.

Truth, integrity, and trust go hand in hand.

These qualities have been ingrained in me since childhood. The most severe punishments I received as a kid were the result of veering away from these qualities. Telling a fib was simply not tolerated. Punishment for lying about something was far worse than for whatever it was you were lying about.

As a result, if you ask me a question, I feel compelled to give you a truthful answer. Being a magician, this has often caused me a fair amount of stress. Refusing to answer, “How did you do that?” is anathema to lying. Please don’t ask me, “Does this outfit make me look fat?” unless you want an honest answer.

A promise is a promise. If I say I will do something, I won’t stop until I have done it. Or, at least given it my best effort before admitting defeat. To do anything else is the same as lying.

My wimpy way out of this predicament has been to say, “I’ll try.” The Star Wars fans among you will immediately quote Yoda, “Do. Or, do not. There is no try.”

I feel for Luke in that scene. Avoidance of the word “try” is an ongoing challenge for me. If I say I will, then I must. “Try” provides the sense of having a bit of wiggle room.

Do you have friends who are compulsive liars? Liars can be annoying. Liars can also be great fun to hang around.

One of my lunch table companions in high school was well known for his stories. He could take the simplest occurrence from a weekend family trip and spin it into a complex, highly entertaining yarn. There was always the smallest seed of truth in the stories, which made it all that much more fun.

This particular prevaricator would never admit to stretching the truth. He would insist that it was all true. We were highly entertained by these wild stories and urged him on.

The stories were harmless. However, the side effect of this consistent pattern of exaggerating was that we never fully believed anything this storyteller said. He lost our trust.

(Nonetheless, I count him among a small group of dear friends from high school.)

The problem with even a single lie is that it instills doubt. How do you believe anything this person says once they have demonstrated a capacity for telling lies?

At one of my previous places of employment, a guy was fired after making a mistake that caused a major outage in our systems. He wasn’t fired for making the mistake. He was fired for lying about what he did. Mistakes we could learn from and move forward. Being a person we could no longer believe was not acceptable. Lying was a “pack your boxes, there’s the door” violation.

A reputation of integrity and trust takes a long time to establish, and only a moment to destroy.

It seems that, more and more, we are living in a world of outright lies and deception. The problem with this preponderance of lies is that everything is met with skepticism. A healthy dose of skepticism is a good thing. But, not when it becomes overwhelming.

Here in the US, our legal system is founded on a “presumption of innocence.” It used to be this way with truth. I would venture to say that most of us lived much of our lives with a “presumption of truth.” Now, it seems, we are shifting to a world where we assume we are being lied to, and truth must be proven.

This affects all of us.

We can turn this around.

Start in your own small circle. Let’s get back to speaking the truth. Not just try, do.

Truth matters.