Truth Is Beauty

Photo by Oleg Magni on

As children we are taught to be truthful. As we grow older we realize that some of our adult icons have lied to us. Our first realization of dishonesty is always difficult to accept, especially if we have really tried to be entirely open in our own lives. 

We’ve all heard the story of George Washington confessing to chopping down a cherry tree as a child. Whether or not that is little more than a myth is uncertain and we don’t really know that Washington was always truthful, but it does appear that people trusted him. That alone makes us think that he must have been mostly free of lies and deceit. So too did Abraham Lincoln somehow earn the moniker of “Honest Abe,” leading us to also believe that he was a man who had earned the confidence of the people who knew him. 

I’m not so sure that anyone has lived through decades without telling a fib here and there. As children we all have those moments of attempting to cover up our incidents of bad behavior with bold excuses that border on lies. Who hasn’t found themselves complimenting a cook over a dish that wasn’t actually tasty at all just to spare feelings? The little white lies creep into our habits because it sometimes seems better to spare someone’s feelings than to voice what we are really thinking. Those lies seem not to hurt anyone so we justify them with slight prevarications.

Of course there are truly hurtful lies that eat at the fabric of families and societies. The person who steals from a company multiplies the untruths over and over and over to keep from being caught. The adulterer breaks the sacred vows of marriage. Lies destroy trust and create cynicism and fear. 

I have been fortunate to be surrounded during my life by mostly honest people. There was, however, a priest at my high school who hid the fact that he was sexually abusing one of the girls, so it might be said that his whole life was a lie. Someone stole all of my valuable jewelry one time, my checking account got hacked, and a student took my wallet, but those are the most egregious things that have happened to me. As a young adult I watched President Nixon’s reputation unravel as evidence pointed to the coverup that he engineered after the break-in at the Watergate. 

Perhaps my parents kept worries from me, but that was simply an omission motivated by love. If either of them was hiding some egregious act I have never uncovered it. I believe that they were both well-intentioned people who did their best to be honest and forthright. They modeled the behavior that I would adopt as a child and carry into my adulthood. What you see with me is very much who I am. I am a person with nothing to hide. 

My mother and my teachers and my church impressed me with their lessons about honesty, so it’s difficult for me to understand someone who lies continually. I know such persons exist. I have met them among my students. I have wondered if they had not been taught to be truthful like I was or if they were simply imitating the conduct that they from the members of their family. Either way it made me sad to see that those so young were already on a dangerous road. 

Nowadays we are cautious about who we believe because there are so many lies circulating around us. We are realists, but we get caught again and again in shocking revelations about people we once admired. Oddly our cynicism about the shortage of truth in our society makes us more likely to believe that everything is fake. We become confused and manipulated. Lies gum up the works and turn us against each other just like my mom often warned. 

Truth, like love, always wins. Somehow the lies, exaggerations and stealthy behaviors are usually outed. It’s best to choose truth, even if it is painful. We may not want to know the imperfections of the people that we love or the ugly aspects of the history of our world, but we are better off getting such things into the light than hiding them in the shadows. Honesty is a first step to rebuilding trust and I can’t think of anything we need more right now. Sadly we live in an era filled with so many hoaxes that it is often difficult to know what is true and what is false. We should not have to be detectives and researchers to know the difference. If truthfulness became more of a norm we would have more confidence in what we hear.

Truth is beauty and beauty is truth. It begins or not, in the arms of parents. It continues with our teachers and our neighbors. If that trust is broken and then accepted as the way things are our society breaks down. It’s time we all worked hard to show our young ones the importance of being honest and the pitfalls of lying. Praise the truth tellers and reveal the liars for what they are. Most of all be the models of truth that our children need.