This morning I asked my Facebook Reader’s Page what they would like me to blog about. The answer was lies.
Facebook has a secret new algorithm to determine which page posts our followers will see. The new method involves cases of microbrews, a smoky room, a table filled with uninhibited Gen-Xers and dice. Sometimes my posts go to more than a thousand readers. Sometimes, like today’s, to less than two hundred.
One reader did respond, though. She was troubled by the Brian Williams scandal and the reaction against him. I use the scandal word with caution, but the situation has escalated that far, I believe, with new accusations that his coverage of Hurricane Katrina was also flawed and at best greatly exaggerated. There will be more accusations before this ends, just as women continue to come forward and accuse Bill Cosby of sexual abuse. The ball picks up speed as it rolls downhill. At a certain point we begin to wonder if our steadfast support for the accused might need to be re-examined.
If you haven’t been keeping up, the story in a nutshell: Williams claimed he was in a helicopter that came under fire in Iraq and was hit by a rocket propelled grenade. Now we know this wasn’t quite true because it was the copter in front of him. Williams attributes this to “memory fog.”
Celebrities and scholars are often found guilty of telling lies. For instance historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was accused of plagiarism for not attributing the work of other authors in her book The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys and possibly another. While she did acknowledge the other authors’ work in footnotes, she failed to include quotation marks for direct quotes. She has since redeemed, at least mostly, her reputation and brought attention to the need for better scholarship. That, of course, isn’t always the outcome.
How important is the truth to you? How about in your most intimate relationships?
This week the New York Times had an editorial entitled “Good Lovers Lie.” The author claims there are “good lies and bad lies.” He also says “Love is a greater good than the truth.” I won’t tell you how he comes to these conclusions. Read the editorial for more. But all the talk of lies has me thinking about our upcoming holiday, Valentine’s Day, when we celebrate love and lovers. And for me, and maybe for you, what part of love, is honesty?
Here’s what I think, as a wife, mother, novelist, minister’s spouse and former counselor. Take my opinions as simply that.
- Lies come back to haunt us. Most are never uncovered but we worry they will be; the ones that are uncovered can destroy trust forever. Ask any woman who has discovered her husband (or vice versa) is having an extramarital affair he’s hidden from her. Will she ever forget and move on, even if he promises to end it and does? In the future will she believe whatever he tells her without serious questioning? Will she always be looking under the surface for more lies?
- Conversely truth isn’t always the right path. If the reason for “telling the truth”–or your understanding of truth–is to hurt another person, then it can be as damaging as a lie. Before you blurt out something you want another person to know, ask yourself why you’re so anxious to tell. Is this something that will change the other person’s life for the better? Is this something that will ruin his day, or possibly his life? Is this something she really needs to know in order to protect herself or to help her make an important choice?
- And so now, adding one point to the next, using my example we must ask: Then is it better to tell your spouse you’ve engaged in an affair and finally set the record straight, or is it better to keep this sad and painful truth to yourself so your spouse won’t suffer?
Some lies, like an affair–which is usually one series of lies after another–breach trust in a particularly vicious way. Anyone who is properly, honestly sorry, has to decide if telling the truth will help or hurt their spouse. If the revelation and apology is just more of the same behavior that caused the affair, i.e. a disregard for your partner and a desire for gratification no matter the possible cost, then the answer is clear. At least to me.
Some relationships cry out for honesty. They are built almost exclusively on trust, and when that trust is questioned, then we must question the relationship. One of those relationships is a marriage. So much depends on telling the truth and living the truth.
Another of those relationships? Our relationship with the people who bring us the news.
These days cyberspace is filled with lies. Half the articles I read–on all sides–are filled with half-truths and facts distorted and slanted toward a particular viewpoint. I depend on nightly news and the channels I most trust to help keep me discern truth so I can make good choices and decisions about world events. When someone as prominent as the anchor of a major network admits he played fast and loose with the facts, I have to question everything else he and his network have presented. Can I forgive and move on? Certainly.
Let’s hear what you think.