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The honest truth about lying; has disregard for the truth become epidemic in America?


What are we to think of the Washington newsman who says unabashedly that he would lie in order to get at the truth for a story? This is not a hypothetical illustration, nor is it an isolated viewpoint.

I know firsthand of national reporters who have called a member of an organization to verify "information" that another member has supposedly stated. A lie or a deception then forces a disclosure by an unsuspecting party. (Once a reporter has obtained the illicit information, though, these same organizations in turn lie to him about the truth.)

What about this use of the lie as a way of life or business? I'm picking on newsmen only because their actions are so easy to cite. Furthermore, this is the season for railing at journalists, who do bear a lot of the responsibility for some of our national problems.

We all instinctively nod in a affirmation when we read the words of the author James C. Hefley: "Journalists for some of America's most prestigious media have been caught embellishing and even inventing 'factual' stories." Writing in the Christian Herald, Hefley recalls that the Washington Post had returned a Pulitzer Prize after its prizewinning article about an eight-year-old heroin addict was found to be fictitious. That was an especially discouraging day for journalism. I think the Post probably examined itself and its hiring practices in depth.

But the problem encompasses more than journalism. It touches business, government, education, entertainment, and simple day-to-day relationships between fellow citizens and neighbors. Think about the $100 billion in taxable income that goes unreported in this well-intentioned nation every year; or think about the employee theft in American business that now exceeds $50 billion a year; or think about the gossip and the petty liars in your neighborhood.

Hefley quoates Jerald M. Jellison, a psychology professor at the University of Southern California and the author of I'm Sorry--I Didn't Mean To--and Other Lies We Love to Tell, who finds dishonesty snowballing in the United States. Jellison writes: "Many tend to think that since everyone else is cheating, they have to do the same, in order to protect themselves. In the past, breaking the rules was viewed as an exception. Now such behavior is considered commonplace."

We're talking about basic deception--lying. I fear we have reached the point where lying comes almost as easily as telling the truth. Lying doesn't hurt any longer. Do you remember how much you suffered emotionally as a child when you lost control--out of fear or desperation--and told thta little lie? Such concern is gone; our consciences are withering; our commitment to truth is eroding.

Augustine warned us 1,500 years ago: "when regard for truth has broken down or even slightly weakened, all things remain doubtful." Even longer ago, the writers of Judeo-Christian scripture warned: "The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful," and "A lying tongue hates those it hurts."

How tragic those words sound today. They pierce even deeper, however, when we realize what the trend toward lying is doing to our children. The tragedy begins for them at a very young age in our educational system. And it does no good to dump on the schoolteachers, either. They're merely caught in the chaotic winds of the course we've chosen for ourselves.

You see, we've bought the theory of relativism, the single big lie that says there are no absolute truths. We drift through life and let the drifting individual, influenced by a drifting society, determine what is right and wrong. To the drifting individual, there is no such thing as a lie--his lie is the truth.

What madness!

Proponents of such chaos like to quote a strange source to support their do-your-own-thing philosophy. With a contented smile and a sophisticated manner, they ask, "What is truth?" But you wonder if they understand the weak, desperate, tormented nature of Pontius Pilate when he blurted those words, which have echoed horribly through the centuries.

Hiding behind such weak arguments, we have indoctrinated our small children with all manner of relativistic nonsense and forced upon them such hazards as "values clarification," religious neutrality, textbook revisionism, concern for the self above all else, and the rule of the majority rather than the higher law, even when that majority is wrong.

George Selig, the dean of the CBN University School of Education, in Virginia, spoke of one factor in the trend toward lying: "Pragmatism has become a substitute for morality in education, because when faced with critical situations that require urgency in response, educators will often resort to the formation of a lie." He's right. Expediency works in perfect harmony with any weakening of moral absolutes.

Writing in Educational Leadership magazine, a team of researchers described the multifaceted pressures on young people to lie: "Students learn from observation, advertising, and government leaders, as well as from public schools. Many worldly-wise students see life as a con game in which neither television advertising nor test scores and college admissions are free from dishonesty and maniipulation."

So what do we do? We must get behind the steadily growing awareness in grass-roots America that if we're going to counter the hollowness in the heart of our great country, we must fight to restore our traditional values. We must work in the family, the church, the schools, and the national leadership to restore truth and the presence of an absolute right and an absolute wrong.

Clint Ellsom, a schoolteacher in Ventura, California, wrote in Moody magazine: "True honesty is rare today. Few are willing to stand broken beore a consistent moral standard. Instead, we skirt obligations and blame circumstances."

Let's begin to correct that condition. Let's tell the truth to one another--whether we're newsmen, businessmen, educators, or just plain neighbors. Lying is unacceptable.
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Author:Slosser, Bob
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Sep 1, 1986
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