Although politics isn’t the exclusive domain for embellishing the truth, it certainly has a prominent history for fabricating falsehoods and promoting prevarication. Most understand why some people lie to cover up an act or account that would incriminate them. We don’t condone or agree-but we understand why? Our history’s replete with such cover-ups and blatant mendacity. Former President Clinton denied he had “relations with that woman.” Hillary Clinton steadfastly dismisses any wrong doing with her email and personal server fiasco. If mendacity was a boulevard; the Clintons would be an interstate.
President Richard Nixon denied any involvement before his resignation from office over the scandalous Watergate debacle. When a kid’s caught with his or her hand in the cookie jar, with crumbs on their face, and deny it, we know why. Spouses break their vow of fidelity, and deny it-we understand why. They refuse to face the consequences. Whether they’re sorry or not-most express remorse over getting caught. A hollow existence.
We hold elected officials to high standards-often higher than our own personal comportment. Despite those who claim “absolute integrity,” who’d pass the test of “never telling a lie?” It’s an esoteric group of one. There are serial, compulsive liars. Some choose to fabricate their version over the truth. They lie habitually. It’s like breathing-they’ll do so till the tropic sun turns cold.
Last week left leaning Politico and CNN found their skull-duggery tactics unearthed a “lie,” placing presidential hopeful Ben Carson on their crucible of scrutiny, regarding a statement in his book, “Gifted Hands,” that he was offered a “full scholarship” to West Point in 1969. Before Politico backed off hours later, softening their stance, some asked, “Why would a gifted, world renown neurosurgeon, need to exaggerate such an otherwise inconsequential issue? Surprisingly, CNN couldn’t find support for Carson’s claim that he tried to, in unbridled anger, stab another boy in high school. Typically, the media is trying to prove the contrary. Carson clarified his statement in his book regarding West Point, acknowledging he could’ve been clearer, admitting he never pursued, or applied to the military academy. Will he survive? Vice President Joe Biden, a few years ago, admitted to plagiarizing. He apologized for his “unintended oversight.” He survived.
Most recoil at lying. Even liars. There’s biblical support for such outrage. Lying is catalogued as “a sin.” It’s theologically incumbent to be accurate-all have sinned, and missed the mark of perfection. In a life time, anyone who boasts to have never lied-did. The claim is self-indicting. A closer look at Scripture’s insightful. I John 1:8-10, indicts us all, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” The wiles of lying are as old as the human race. It’s consequences are insidious and beguiling.
At the risk of wading into murky theological waters, perhaps the question’s, “Why do people lie?” Is it in our DNA?” It appears to be universal, unaltered by ethnic, social, economic or geographical boundaries-male and female. Is it a learned trait? Parents recall that they didn’t have to coax their little offspring to lie. Is it the sludge of the Fall? Or moral myopia? We err by relegating it solely to politics. Presidents, princes and paupers are afflicted by it. For some it’s a matter of degree. Others won’t admit to lying-masquerading it as a “fib.” Minimizing the act. Some insist it’s only a “venial sin.” An error, or faulty judgment-not a mortal sin. We’re masters at trivializing our role in this act. Some relegate it to velleity. Veracity a passing virtue? Some fear that.
In the “The Book of Virtues,” Bill Bennett ably contrasts honesty and dishonesty, “To be honest is to be real, genuine, authentic, and bona fide. To be dishonest is to be partly feigned, forged, fake, or fictitious. Honesty expresses both self-respect and respect for others. Dishonesty fully respects neither oneself nor others. Honesty imbues lives with openness, reliability, and candor; it expresses a disposition to live in the light. Dishonesty seeks shade, cover, or concealment. It is a disposition to live partly in the dark.” That begs the question, “Why would anyone strive to be dishonest?” Someone once said that lies have an expiration date-truth’s immortal. GM and VW cover-ups expired.
Instantly one recognizes the phrase “your nose is gonna’ grow” as synonymous with lying, portrayed in “Pinocchio,” a 19th Century classic by Carlo Lorenzini. It’s no accident that the two most beloved American presidents, Washington and Lincoln, possessed our proverbial sense of honesty, disclosed in “Honest Abe,” and “George Washington and the Cherry Tree.” Classics worth reading. Aesop’s most famous fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” though brief, indelibly reminds us of a fast way to lose good character, and ultimately our honesty. The last line is salient, “That is the kind of thing that happens to people who lie: even when they do tell the truth they will not be believed.”
There’s clamor for honesty in the public arena. What’d we do before Fact Check? Lest we forget that honesty in our private life hastens honesty in public office. Our staunch insistence for honest public officials doesn’t absolve us of our personal integrity. Hypocrisy’s alive and well. We love “throwing stones.” The story of the woman caught in adultery, and Jesus’ compassion for the sinner, powerfully reminds us that the hypocrisy of the crowd is one of the most stark displays of dishonesty. Demand for unswerving honesty is laudable. For we who’ve “fallen short,” we’re grateful for Christ’s redemption and forgiveness. What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org