No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar– Abraham Lincoln
When our daughter Esther was 3 years old, we noticed a trend of not telling the truth. She found it easier to lie because she noticed the truth kept landing her in trouble. This was no fault of hers. We contributed to the problem. Once we saw this trend, we decided to switch things up. Each time she told the truth, we would commend her for truth-telling before disciplining her. We cultivated truth-telling while also correcting bad behavior. This small shift has been a game-changer in our home. She does not always tell the truth, but there has been a marked difference since we pointed out our appreciation for her telling the truth.
By extolling the value of truthfulness or veracity, we can cultivate a culture of truth-telling. Being truthful may incur some consequences at the onset, but in the long term, there is internal peace and freedom that we arrive at when we stick to the truth. I have learned that lying only begets lies. To lie, one must have a good enough memory to keep up with the string of lies that must be maintained. Eventually. the strings we weave entangle our lives. Additionally, research shows that lying has adverse health effects.
On the other hand, “if you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything” as Mark Twain once said. Lying or cheating does offer some immediate reward. Like escaping punishment, a job based on false experience on a resume, a higher grade in school than you deserve, the winning vote, higher sales than the competition for a product or service, and even more likes or views or followers. But the long term effects can be irreparable.
In 2013, former NBC News anchor Brian Williams told David Letterman in vivid detail an account of him being shot down in a helicopter while in Iraq in 2003. There was only one problem. It was not true. Williams, who had built his news anchoring repertoire on trust for ten years, lost it in about ten minutes. It was after soldiers who were in the helicopter refuted his presence, that Williams retracted. While I appreciated the mea culpa, I wondered why Williams, with his glowing reputation, decided to tell a tale.
Writing in Truth
On reflection, I am learning how necessary it is in my writing to always stay on the side of truth. What I write has a permanent record, and anytime, anyone can access one of my blog posts. I never want my content to fall under the scrutiny of suspicion. Here is a 3 step process I keep to in my writing to ensure I stick with the truth. I believe it is a worthy process to apply in life to maintain veracity as well:
Consider the Source
With the immediate access information, the proliferation of sources that are not accurate is no surprise. Living in the era of click-bait, sensationalism, and exaggeration, the truth has been sacrificed on the altar of clicks and views. Numbers have trumped accuracy. Views have overtaken veracity. As the pandemic swept through the world earlier this year, the truth was essential to clarity. I compare sources to fruit. Bad sources are like bad fruit. Once experienced, they leave a sickening taste. A good source like a good fruit does the opposite. Considering a good source requires analyzing, weighing, and carefully applying fact-checking before making a decision, whether in writing or life. Reliability and character, not just reviews, are key to identifying trusted sources.
Confirm the Information
The proverb, “In the multitude of counselors there is safety,” has profited me in many areas of my life. The keyword is multitude. I must pause for caution here. Having more in terms of sources or counselors does not necessarily mean better. Many have fallen victim to paralysis by analysis. Brian Williams admitted that he allowed his ego to get in the way of truth. If instead, he allowed those who were on the helicopter to weigh in and confirm his story first, he could have silenced his ego, and even maintained his trustworthiness, which he has been working to reclaim.
Let’s say you need to fix an appliance in your home but like me, you are not a DIY (Do it Yourself) person. You would probably get three to four quotes before deciding on a technician. Price is one, but not the only deciding factor. It is also important that the technician knows what they are doing. They might be cheap, but their inexperience may cost you more. Likewise, internet sources may come fast and cheap but their inaccuracies can cause grave harm, long term. Take time to confirm.
I employ a three to four source confirmation rule in my blog writing. The goal is not to find agreement among the sources but enough accuracy for the subject I am writing about. For example, if I write about growth, I would confirm my content by reading reliable sources like John Maxwell, Craig Groeschel, Carol Dwek, and of course, the Bible. This confirmation gives me confidence in relaying my content.
Convey the Truth
After seeking and confirming what is true, acting with accuracy comes next. There are different ways to convey the truth. You can inflate, palter, spin, or plain it.
Inflating adds to the truth by exaggeration. For example, if someone asked you how much your new TV cost, you may say around $400 when it actually cost $250.
Paltering is lying by using the truth. If I asked my daughter if she cleaned her room, and she replied, “I made my bed,” she is paltering. She used a truth (making her bed) to deflect or sidestep the truth (she did not clean her room).
Spinning tells the truth but from a certain perspective or view instead of objectively. This perspective serves personal interests.
Plaining has two characteristics not found in the previous three. Honesty and transparency. This keeps the truth pure and unobstructed by any addition or subtraction.
When it comes to conveying truth, it’s always best to keep it plain.
Final Thought: Truth is always true even if no one believes it, while a lie will always be a lie no matter how many people believe it. Whether it is a three-year-old, a seasoned news anchor, blogger, or someone mulling over a life decision, veracity is a key building block to a high quality life.
Keep on keeping on!