Truth and honesty.
VOICE FROM THE SOUTH
By FR. EMETERIO BARCELON, S.J.
"WHAT is truth?" Pilate asked Jesus. Truth is the depicting of reality as it is. However, we can distort it and by distorting it willingly, we are telling a lie. Some say that sometimes we automatically distort it by our perception of it. Normally we can perceive things as they are. Truth is as what God wants us to see, things as they are and not distort it.
The opposite of truth is lies. In lies we present what we perceive not as they are but with some bias or distortion usually to our benefit or think it is to our benefit. It is fascinating to watch someone who has lied trying to squirm out of a lie. They squirm and squirm that brings them deeper and deeper in the hole they created but cannot extricate himself. If we allow people to lie, normal interaction of people in the community is not possible. A lie is a lie. Some may want to call it "misspoken" but it is still a lie. Like Pinocchio, the nose of the liar should grow an inch longer every time he tells a lie. Normal dealings in a community, is not possible when people can tell lies and not be punished.
Beyond lies is dishonesty with goods or stealing. Stealing is not only prohibited by the Ten Commandments but also reprehensible from natural thinking. You should not take the property of another without his consent. Stealing is not sanctioned by any group. Even the triad gangsters do not steal from each other. They steal from others but do not steal from each other.
Honesty is the best policy. Sometimes our own interest to aggrandize ourselves clouds sour thinking. We think that shaving a bit here and a bit there will be for our own good. This is not true. Dishonesty invariably ends up in disaster. Not telling the truth or dishonesty in material things (stealing) sometimes we think can benefit us. But not in the long run. I had two distinct experiences of a group that have connived among themselves to steal. One group used to buy seaweeds and then they agreed to sell them again and keep the receipts. This way they kept the theft for some time but when it was exposed they all lost their jobs. In the end it was not worth their stealing. Honesty is the best policy. The other is a small rural bank where the employees agreed to make false loans but when the bank was closed they all lost their jobs and no amount of crying could bring back their secure jobs and a regular income for their families.
I think the story goes that George Washington admitted that he chopped down the cherry tree. He did not tell a lie but admitted it as a mistake. He was punished accordingly. Then there is Nazi Goebel who is reputed to say that if you tell a lie often enough, it will be accepted as the truth. Then there is the prominent man who was caught on tape telling a lie. He called it "misspoken." So he lied but who cares. The problem is that when he speaks again you will not be sure he is telling the truth. That is the problem with lieing. The habit of telling the truth even when it hurts is learned in childhood. Many parents neglect to teach this habit and it becomes a problem later on in the life of the child.