March 30    

Today's quotation:

To tell a lie in cowardice, to tell a lie for gain, or to avoid deserved punishment--are all the blackest of black lies.  On the other hand, to teach one to try one's best to avoid the truth--even to press it when necessary toward the outer edge of the rainbow--for a reason of kindness, or of mercy, is far closer to the heart of truth than to repeat something accurately and mercilessly that will cruelly hurt the feelings of someone.

Emily Post

Today's Meditation:

Is the truth over-rated?  Do we focus so strongly on getting other people to tell the truth because of our own insecurities, or because the truth is an absolute good that everyone should tell, always?  Personally, I have trust issues that developed when I was very young, and as an Adult Child of an Alcoholic, I still have them, though I've reined them in pretty well.  The truth is very important to me, but I also know that it's not always necessary or justified.  When I have someone "demand" the truth from me about something that truly isn't his or her business because they want something to hold over another person, chances are that I'm going to give them an answer that will satisfy them rather than one based on the absolute truth.  If the truth will harm someone else, I'm going to withhold it or bend it or even break it in order to protect that person, when I truly feel that it's necessary to do so.

Of course, I would never advocate lying for the sake of lying, or for the sake of personal gain.  Emily very rightly distinguishes between those truths that hurt others and ourselves, and those that have their roots in mercy and compassion.  The difficulty for us is to be able to distinguish between the two reasons, and not to rationalize untruths that we want to tell, telling ourselves that they're okay when really they're not.  It's important that we not get into the habit of lying and then justifying those lies with even more untruths.

I love the truth, and I do my very best always to tell it.  But I do recognize that sometimes it's going to harm others, and there's often no need to do that harm.  If I have a student who acted up in class and I know that child is going to be severely punished for a minor offense, there's a very good chance that I'll say the student did nothing wrong--trusting that the student will learn something important from the incident, and knowing that it's not always up to me to control situations.  I think that a young person more often will learn from a compassionate untruth than from a brutal truth, and I would like always to err on the side of compassion, even if it may be an error.

Questions to consider:

Why do so many of us feel that all untruths are simply wrong?

Have you ever witnessed someone hurt by the truth in a way that wasn't justified?

What does it mean to "err on the side of compassion"?

For further thought:

A truth that's told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.

William Blake

more on truth



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