Is it just me or has the entire world I live in decided that truth is whatever they want it to be? Since when have honesty and truthfulness become so abhorrent to people that they feel it makes no difference if they distort the reality around them to suit the momentary situations they find themselves in. Don’t get me wrong, if you assume that I’m claiming to be perfect now or have always been perfect. I’m not. But, I have, by virtue of age and experience come to a keen awareness of the value and importance of the relationship between truth and reality.
I’m from an age when the story of our first president, and the admission of his action in chopping down a cherry tree was common fodder for first grade students. As I grew older I developed the notion that I was a truthful person and the notion persisted well into my adult years. The fact that I fell into a habit of “embellishing” my past when discussing it with unknowing people just didn’t register with me as being dishonest. Someone made the statement a long time ago that “Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.” But what if we know our own individual history but choose to re-write it to suit our personal aims?
Years ago, in the 1967 movie titled A Guide for the Married Man, the Robert Morse character Ed, tutors Walter Matthau’s character Paul, in the do’s and don’ts of getting away with an extramarital affair. The movie is a series of vignettes involving various characters who have avoided being caught by following one of Ed’s rules, or men who have been caught in mid debauch by their wives. The scenes in that movie smack of the dishonesty prevalent in our society today, but one in particular has always had a particularly striking message, and one which seems to have put down deep roots in society today.
In that scenario the wife of the cheating husband walks in on him and a voluptuous beauty in the couple’s bed. Naturally she goes into hysterics and while she is ranting and raving the husband and the beauty calmly get out of bed, dress, make the bed, the beauty leaves and the husband, still totally ignoring his wife, dons a smoking jacket and proceeds to the front room. There he takes a seat in an easy chair and begins reading the newspaper. The wife is still screaming at the top of her lungs. Suddenly the husband looks up from his paper and says, “Oh hi dear. When did you get home?” The result is for the wife is total bewilderment and at this point becomes unsure that she saw what she saw.
The lesson here according to tutor Ed is that if you get caught, deny, deny, deny … never confess or admit to wrong doing … ever! It’s a lesson that appears to have been learned and practiced by society in general.
When I was knee deep in my alcoholism I became so used to lying about nearly everything that it became second nature. Two things happened to bring me face to face with the string of lies. The first of those events involved the fourth, fifth, and ninth steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Having to face the damage my lies had caused and then make amends is something I never want to endure again; so much so that the memory alone is enough to keep me honest in every relationship. Am I one hundred percent successful? No! of course not, but it’s what I strive for.
The second event was the process of reviewing my life as I wrote Dear Mom and Dad . When I realized that what I was recording might actually be published, I was forced to be brutally honest with myself and about myself. Since that time I’ve recommended it as an exercise in honest assessment of one’s life to any number of people, none of whom seem to be the least bit interested; and why should they be? Society appears to condemn truth and reward the lie … and the liar.
The sad truth is that it starts at the top, in the White House, and flows out and down from there. News reporters report lies as truth. Office seekers of all kinds fabricate facts of their lives with virtual impunity. Schools at all levels teach myth and untruth as history and fact. Job seekers stretch the truth of their education and experience in applications and interviews. Persons you’ve respected and relied on when they’ve made a request of you cause you to respond quickly and sincerely, make promises they never keep and statements which are self-serving if not downright dishonest. When all these, and people in many other categories, are caught in the fiction or lie, they either get a deer in the headlights expression or … deny, deny, deny. At all costs deny!
The reality of it all serves to strengthen my resolve to eliminate any and all dishonesty from my life, in spite of the recurring accusation that by living my life in a role contrary to the chromosomes God assigned me at birth, I’m living a lie. In reality I’m doing the exact opposite. I have never denied my origins. I’m living a totally honest reality for the first time in my life. I just wish that the reality of the world around me didn’t tend to make me suspicious of virtually every single thing I see and hear. It makes me cynical and I don’t like it. Although I lived a lot of my life in a lie I never suspected that other people lied. I had this naïve childish belief that everyone was basically honest and they had to prove otherwise beyond a doubt before I ever suspected them of lying.
As I wrote in the last sentence of Dear Mom and Dad … “I … ‘sometimes wish I was three again, knowing what I know now.’”