Truth and Honesty
Truth Should Be Our Commitment and Our Goal
We should all make a commitment to never say things in political settings and public contexts that we know are not true at the time we say them.
We have too many lies being told today by too many people in too many settings and we have far too many people who feel no guilt and who have no remorse at any level for saying things that they know are not true.
That is wrong.
It’s also actually sad.
And it is hurting us on several levels as a nation and as a people.
It’s extremely hard to have groups succeed in settings where we are damaging each other and were we don’t even have the ability to have an honest discussion about our differences because we are no longer saying things to each other and to the world in honest ways.
We will damage ourselves in multiple ways and we will become just another sad and broken multi tribal country at war with itself and having people feeling good at sad levels about being broken because they are so angry with each other that they would rather have everyone broken in each setting rather than have anyone win.
It’s not too late.
We have the ability to rise above this petty anger and this damaging and extremely dysfunctional division and we can rise to achieve true levels of enlightened American exceptionalism as a country — but that can only happen if we decide clearly to be Exceptional and if we make telling the truth part of that renewed pathway to American intergroup success, safety and Peace.
Telling the truth can anchor serious positive parts of that approach.
We need to trust each other as truth tellers again.
We need to be a nation that values truth, respects truth, and we all need to make telling the truth both a commitment and a goal.
Lying is bad.
We know why we lie.
We have very strong sets of Us-Them instincts that cause us to like and support our Us and that cause us to oppose and dislike whoever we perceive to be a Them, and one of the consequences of having those instincts triggered in a negative way in any setting is that we tend to feel no guilt or ethical concern when we lie to Them or when we say things to Them that are not true.
Truth used to be the American way.
We used to have a strong ethical standard for America that was clearly and explicitly based on truth. We valued Truth, expected Truth and we each actually took great pride in never saying things that were not true.
We had a strong sense of individual honor and individual integrity as part of our American culture and we both told the truth and were deeply insulted at a very personal level if anyone ever accused us of saying things that were not true.
We perceived ourselves to be an American Us — and one of the things that we do very consistently in the context of our basic instinctive behavior in any setting is to feel both a need and a desire to not tell a lie to our Us.
Truth actually makes life easier.
It is actually much easier to interact in any setting when the standard that is in place for the culture and the people of that setting is to only say things that are true.
It is much easier to interact in any setting when we speak the truth, because we can listen to what another person is saying and we can judge and hear what they say based on whether or not we agree with what they are saying instead of having to wonder if what they are saying is actually true.
We have tribalized so badly in the last couple of years that we can’t count on the people in too many settings telling the truth and when we each need to be on full tribal alert for the strong likelihood that what people are saying is not only not true — it is actually intentionally wrong and even malicious and it is actually, far too often, intended to be damaging to us at some level.
That’s use of deception in very intentional and damaging ways is actually a very old approach.
Sun Tzu — in his classic strategy and tactics book, Art of War — wrote over 2,000 years ago that we should lie and deceive the enemy at all times and that one of the very best skill sets for us to have in any conflicted setting is to be very skilled at using damaging lies and at perpetuating damaging falsehoods.
He had absolutely no sense of guilt at saying things that were not true — and, in fact, Sun Tzu strongly urged groups and leaders for every group to be highly skilled at that process and that strategy and he saluted the people who were the very best at both deception and falsehoods at every level.
Sun Tzu seems to have both adherents and followers in our country today. We have gone from holding truth as a point of honor and as a highly preferred and expected practice for Americans to having people across the political spectrum very intentionally presenting wrong information in clearly untruthful ways.
Some people have not chosen that path. We still have some people who refuse to say things that are not true. Integrity still exists for a number of people.
We still have significant numbers of people in both public and political settings who are telling the truth, but we don’t know for sure who they are today far too much of the time because so many other people are trying to divide us and anger us and they are willing to eagerly and very skillfully and intentionally lie, deceive, and create and use untrue things to achieve those negative goals.
That is not good.
We should change that situation.
We can and should go down a different and better path for the truth.
We don’t need permission to do it.
We can decide now, as individual people, that we want the truth to once again be a point of American honor and we can each decide that we should and will each as individual people explicitly commit to not saying things that are not true.
We can reintroduce truth as a first key step as an individual commitment to ourselves.
Each of us should agree to ourselves and to the people around us simply and directly to not say things that we know not to be true at the time we say them.
We do not need to go back and debate what is or was not true in past communications. We don’t need to refresh or rehash old discussions. We should start fresh now and we should build a new foundation now based entirely on each of us personally not saying anything now that we know at the time we say it is not true.
Simply not saying anything now that we know is not true now is a magnificent and very effective step in the right direction, and that commitment by each of us to ourselves and to each other can get us in very good ways back on the path that we need to be on for both self-respect and mutual respect as fellow members of the American Us.
We need to rebuild our sense of being a values based and honor based and integrity based enlightened and intentional American Us — and we need to make not saying things that we know are not true at the time we say them to be a key piece of the rebuilding process.
We don’t need to revisit or revise prior things that we have said. We do not even need to debate what is true. We should start fresh as the direct custodian of our own honor and our own credibility and ethical beliefs and we should each decide not to say anything that we know is not true from this point forward.
We should also agree to listen now to what other people say that they also believe to be true.
We have an opportunity now to learn if we decide to listen to other people who also commit to saying true things.
We can identify ourselves to each other as having made that commitment in quiet and direct ways.
We do not need to agree with any other point of view on any fact or any issue, but we should take advantage of the opportunity we can have as people who are telling the truth to hear on each issue what other people who make that same commitment also believe to be true with the goal of using that information to help influence what we think on any point or issue without us having to agree or disagree with each other on any point or issue.
The point of this process is not to achieve agreement. The point of this process is to stop poisoning the well with things that we know are not true at the time we say them and to restore our own self-respect because we respect ourselves more when we do not say things that we know are not true.
We don’t need that commitment to be reciprocal. It’s an ethical commitment that we can make to ourselves and that we can encourage others to follow.
Doing it alone is better than not doing it at all.
If we can get other people to make that commitment in a setting, we can move on from that point to other areas of discussion or learning. We can enforce the process for ourselves as ourselves — and we do not need an external process or an oversight process of any kind from anyone else to make it happen and it is okay if we are the only person in a setting going down that path.
It’s even better when we don’t do it alone.
We would, actually, be very well served if we each used our various communications channels to tell our own leaders and our own media outlet people that we would like them to also not say things that they know are not true.
They might decide to not listen — but it will be good to introduce the idea and to give them the option.
If we build a critical mass of people who respond to our leaders and to our communications channel people with a gentle and clear request to actually say true things, it’s possible to steer at least some of them in positive directions and they might feel better about themselves as well when they go there and can become truth tellers, themselves.
In the best of all circumstances, if you tell both leaders and communications people that you have personally decided to say only things that are true and that you would appreciate their support for that approach by also only saying or presenting things that they know are true, you don’t need to be critical of them but can help free them from the pressure to say untrue things on your behalf and make their lives easier in some good ways.
We might be able to create a critical mass of enlightened people on the truth issue that creates local or even larger-scale steerage in that direction. That would be a good thing each time it happens.
It definitely won’t happen if we don’t try.
But personally, we can each make that commitment and we can each steer our own lives down a better path relative to the truth and just use that approach to guide our own lives.
We actually don’t need to do this in groups.
We can decide as individuals not to say things that are not true, and that can be its own reward.
We could each decide to be part of a special and focused moment of truth movement for America.
We are going down some very unfortunate channels relative to truth in too many settings now — but we can actually make the personal choice not to continue on that path and we can try gently to steer others down the same path.
Share this piece quietly and gently with some relevant folks in your life. See if it is useful.
People generally feel better about being truthful and people generally prefer it when others are truthful as well — so that sharing might not be heavy lifting.
We can all feel better about ourselves and about each other if we just decide personally not to say untrue things.
It’s not a lot to ask — and it’s also a huge amount to ask.
Do we have any better choices?
Do we want to tell our children who are living in a world of angry lies that we gave up on Truth as a community and as a nation without giving truth a chance?
Be safe and be well.