Tuesday, May 20, 2008

To Tell The Truth...Or Not

Most of us would agree that telling the truth is a good thing. At least, that's what we would say. Whether or not we were being honest...no just kidding. It seems that even today, amidst a culture that breeds mistrust and manipulation, most people would agree that lying is bad.

I had a conversation with a friend today and he was lamenting something he had told his boss. He is in his 50's, and is working at a relatively new job, after spending quite some time as a teacher in foreign countries. He loved that work, but has recently noticed some old learning handicaps surfacing as he has attempted to learn everything necessary in his new position. Realizing it was causing him some problems, he shared with his boss his history of learning disability as it related to his present situation. She considered it and asked him if she could share that information with others in the company if they asked. He acquiesced, but it immediately set him to worrying about the possible ramifications of what he had done. As he confessed to me, he was afraid he had shot himself in the foot.

I have encountered similar situations in regards to my past criminal record as it relates to, well, just about anything. Applying for jobs, school, and my certification as a massage therapist and bodyworker all were impeded by telling the truth about my history. Being honest on my entry permit into Japan got my pulled out of line and seated in a side office for an extra 25 minutes, as I maligned myself for being so stupid and truthful. But the truth was, although no one in Japan would probably ever have known that I lied on that entry form...what if???? I knew it, and it's what caused me to change my answer as I neared the immigration kiosk. I have had to face a few boards and committees and individuals to explain myself and my record...but I have faced them on the front end, almost always (I'm not perfect ya' know) instead of having to explain a lie after the fact. When I do have to explain lies after the fact, I still have often been given second and even third chances, not always, but often-but think of all the damage and mistrust I have caused. How much easier could it have been? How many referrals and recommendations did I not get because of my dishonesty? There is no comparison to being honest up front and coming clean after a ruse has been discovered.

I remember my father telling me that all a man really has is his reputation in this world-his good name. Whether or not that's all we have-it has taken me a looong time to rebuild that name. I was 15 when I first began to mar it...I am 29 now and I am still not totally out of the woods as far as the government and some other agencies are concerned. But I feel as if I have more than regained the trust of family and friends, even complete strangers who are told of my past, most of the time through continued contact come to trust me. Not all of them. But then again I don't trust everyone I meet either. None of that could have happened if I had peppered my daily business and personal relationships with repeated dishonesties, or even simply omissions. There are families I have worked with who would never have checked...but since they were trusting me in their homes, with their children, I felt it necessary that I trust them with my past wrong-doings, so that they knew all of me. Not that it was always easy, or even that it always worked out the way I wanted it to, but I always left the situation feeling unashamed and knowing that I was hiding nothing.

Unfortunately, there are people who will slander us, use our admissions against us, whether intentionally, out of irrational fear, or simply because they feel as if they are doing the right thing. Through my associations with recovering alcoholics and addicts, I've learned that there is a time to keep some things to ourselves. We definitely needn't rush around proclaiming our wrongs for all to hear, nor make them public knowledge in all situations. Where do we draw the line? Should we hide things about ourselves, if we think that we would be harmed by others finding out?

Although I have no family to support, I would say that the only instance where I recommend this would be if that was the case. And even then, I would hope that I would be able to consult with my wife, and together we could make a decision that upheld our values of integrity, but did not put us and our family into harms way.

As I have read somewhere, we must be ready and willing to admit everything, to go to whatever lengths necessary, to retain our self-respect and sense of integrity. Not that we should cower or confess before our fellow man, but that we should always be honest. And trust that although we may not see it, we cannot do wrong by telling the truth on ourselves, no matter what the consequences. Nothing...absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake.

1 comment:

ryran said...

I thought of you today (since I read this yesterday) as I was with Jordon. We were playing and I asked him if he had a dirty diaper, to which he repeatedly said no. We talked about lying and how it hurts us both... I think we learned something. :)