As I grew from childhood into adulthood I took the instruction from my family and church seriously concerning telling the truth (even though I saw a wink from a family member now and again). Movies and television programs (especially for young people) proclaimed the merits of being honest as a way to a better life.
My Father Explained What a White Lie Was
My mom smacked his shoulder and they both laughed when my dad began to explain to me what a “Little White Lie” was. In school, in church and on Kid’s TV I did not get an explanation so I remained puzzled. This conundrum followed me into my teens when my idealism peaked and matters such as misused truth, deception, hypocrisy, politics and human to human manipulation troubled me a great deal. Mostly I just struggled to navigate daily life always weighing these issues trying to reconcile the ideal with the reality I found. During my time serving in the U. S. Army the contrast between the touted ideal and reality was at its greatest contrast – I will not go into details save soldiers have a history of decadent behavior when off duty for one thing.
In College I was Immersed in Postmodernity . . .
. . . and was unaware of it for many years. I am a lifelong learner so eventually I acquired philosophical knowledge and a keen sense of comprehensive thinking (I am a product of a liberal education in that I do question everything and attempt to make sense of what I discover). Mankind experienced great failures in science and morality and this was perplexing so a philosophical upheaval set humanity on a strange course (see the following):
In a logic class I learned about faulty reasoning and fallacies: this gave me a great deal of understanding but did not solve the dilemma concerning “absolute honesty”. One variable is how one defines honesty and whether it is in an ideal or in a practical sense in which we refer. Words (languages) are powerful and can be used to a person’s advantage without too much trouble especially to the unsuspecting. I could introduce situations where lying saved a life or lives but that may be an exception and it will do little or nothing in the quest to solve of the core issue at hand: how do we really define honesty and can we be honest all the time?.
Midway in my life – 35 years old – I became a Christian: “My dilemma is solved I thought”
Not so fast. Rather than offer my analysis let us inspect what GOD has to say in The Holy Bible and thus allow you to ponder the questions about honesty for yourself. I already expect the comments will reflect whether or not, you are a follower of Jesus Christ (have The Holy Spirit as a helper), you believe in GOD at all or are a secular humanist:
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices
ESV = ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION BIBLE
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Each bending or ignoring of the rules does not seem like much when viewed in isolation.
I have read about corrupt governments, terrorist enclaves, lawless no-man’s lands and places of weak law enforcement around the World. Maybe you have too. Maybe you think or even say, “I am sure glad I live in The United States.” You may also wonder how people around the world could tolerate or even support such despicable behavior from their fellow citizens.
Do we have the best country in the world?
Statistics can be manipulated, politicians can pander or spin things to suit their purposes –which are often linked to special interests – media can try to subtly sway public opinion . . . and I can go ￼on with describing ways in which everyday citizens can be mislead or even completely fooled yet, what is one really big source of influence that can be used on us all? It is the threat of being labeled disloyal – or even treasonous – because of what we believe, say or do. This can be alluded to or even directly hurled our way when we ask too many questions, want to know how money is being used or disagree with a popular movement. In a country ￼populated with at least 320 million people and in as large an area these United States of America exist in, a myriad of differences of opinion, views and expectations suggest life here can become very complicated if we let it. It is unrealistic to expect that all the people will agree about everything all the time. Still, as a Nation we have a remarkable history of sticking together despite our differences ( at least usually).
In The U.S.A. differences have been a source of strength.
I can say for a vast land with a large population we have a remarkable ability to remain united (for all practical considerations at least). We do have poor people in depressed areas (and some exist almost everywhere), we do have some people discriminated against and we do have some people living in areas that are below the national standard in terms of what services are there or the quality of those services (i.e. Internet connection speed). Still, we produce plenty of food, have many great roads and even offer some alternative transportation options, provide mostly good quality fresh water for people to use and decent sanitary conditions utilized a very large-scale that is probably is unmatched globally. Still in the interest of fairness and truth, there are a few negatives I should mention.
In this world we know that nothing is perfect; imperfection exists even in the U.S.A.
Injustice does happen, disrespect happens, bullying can threaten some school children, there is hunger and homelessness even in affluent areas; yes some needy peopledo fall through the cracks of our social safety nets. World comparisons (though often distorted by scale differences) indicate we can do better, in education, in holding the cost of health-care down and in getting more young people into post high school education or job training. We also can do better in correcting theddiscrepancies in income levels for men versus women, for different races and different regions. We also can do better with managing beneficial government programs especially when they are undermined by special interests and corruption. I have read that each year as much as $50 Billion dollars are lost to corruption in Medicare: if we spent $2 Billion dollars on enforcement of Medicare rules and recovered half of $50 Billion dollars, the enforcement costs would be worth the expenditure. Still, none of these (and a few others not delineated) upset me more than a negative trend I recognize in the everyday experience going about my quintessential daily routines.
Trend: Increasing willingness to bend the rules even break some laws.
Income inequality, corruption, over or under regulation and the subterfuges hidden in business practices of large entities (private industry or in government agencies) may be a big part of the root cause of this increasing lawlessness. To me is not a valid excuse for this trend but with bad examples I suppose we must expect it; to me these acts in fact reveal selfishness and greed that is even moving toward a disregard for the sanctity of human life – or at the very least a loss of respect for one another. Phrases like, “Every body does it,” ” it is a stupid law anyway,” “How else am I going to get what is due me or get ahead?” Comments like theseindicate that the hearts of the people who try to excuse or defend this trend are being worn down by lax moral teaching or strong influence from bad examples. Before I write about the more serious aspects of the decline in the rule of law and weakened practice of civility, I want to tell you about the seemingly “little things” that for the most part do not require assistance from law enforcement, but, degrade the quality of life for many of us and, may be becoming more than just a nuisance or annoyance. These behaviors if they continue to increase encourage rational for bad behavior or the disregard for our fellow citizens‘ rights.
Little white lies and minor violations.
In 1955 when I was eight years old my father started to tell me about “little white lies” but my mother promptly intervened and with a chuckle tapped my father’s shoulder and said, “Stop, he has plenty of time to learn about that.” That was true, and later I did learn that sometimes not telling the truth about what appears to be a trivial matter could spare someone’s feelings, avoid a senseless argument or avoid admitting to a seemingly benign “something” I may have done. In all of these situations and many similar ones the “ideal” of always telling the truth, or emulating the myth that George Washington could not tell a lie, produced an inner conflict within me: my religious training contradicted the concept of “how things really are” and what in reality was the sliding scale used to judge what good and bad actually meant. And now I have even learned that George Washington a father of our country practiced espionage during the Revolutionary War; though for obvious good reason but learning of this demystification of a national hero, did and does make me feel like I had been fooled when I studied history as a child.
Like most of my friends and family I gradually learned how much disinformation, omissions of truth and denials worked well to hide my guilt so it would be recognized. I deftly learned when to own up to something so I didn’t get deeper into trouble or deceive in order to stay out of trouble altogether. in fact the whole culture around me as I matured became a delicate balance of truth verses “little white ￼lies.” Then one day “Bam!” I crossed a line and flirted with doing more serious duplicity; from then on my game of “truth and lies” matured into actually breaking rules willfully, consciously bending laws and even violating a couple of the “Ten Commandments.”
I had to admit some, pay the consequences for some, confess sin sometimes and wrestle with an annoying conscience even if I thought I got away with something. In order to function I developed a keen “streetwise” sense about daily life and, often that spared me the worst of possible consequences that I could have experienced, for whatever breach of a rule or a law I was responsible for. I vow that this article isn’t going to become an article of true confessions, I’ll save that story for another time. I will only say this: the norm of the milieu from which I matured within wasn’t perfect but, there were invisible lines that almost everyone knew not to cross, or unspoken limits not to pass. Comparing that to today’s norm however, almost makes the past look like the days of innocence touted in urban mythology.
The problem with saying, “Yes that is the ideal but this is the way it really is,” allows for a gradual process of ever-increasing tolerance to whatever we may consider in our own minds to be just a “little white lie” and therefore “no big deal.” Later I will comment on the standard I believe in by which human behavior is judged and why we are incapable of achieving “perfect honesty”, but, I want to emphasize this: in the absence of striving for honesty at a high moral standard lessens the quality of life for most people. A better trend: trying for the highest standard one can achieve thus reducing life’s negative effects that come from one another.
Now what is the trend toward more serious disregard for others?
So, we accept some degree of hypocrisy in our world and even sometimes come to practice it ourselves – even if inadvertently. After all, “Nobody’s perfect. Right?” One big problem with that: How and where do we draw the line? Who becomes the person (or persons) who draws the line? Is where the line sits arbitrary? Is it immovable? Is the line extant at all?
Well, we have a government that creates laws and various “police” entities that enforce them. Still with so large a population as in The United States of America there are way too many people to manage easily, way too laws (sometimes elected officials pass laws as to appear like they are doing something I think) and way too many people willing to bend them. Even way too many people willing to even break them, so as a matter of practicality the degree of enforce is at best a selective process. Having to decide which laws to enforce happens out of necessity because of the complexity and huge undertaking it has become. And so, ignoring some laws and definitely ignoring some immoral behavior results in a de facto allowing them to continue (perhaps with a wink and a sigh) with little or no restriction. Isn’t this the reality of life now? So why do I have so much trouble accepting it?
In my lifetime I have noticed the gradual increase of the kinds of lawlessness that degrade the quality of life for many people: headlights too bright (or misaligned), increased recreational drug use creating a bad atmosphere (especially for children), the disregard for speed limits (especially in highway work zones), snow allow to fly off the roof of a vehicle and smash the windshield of the vehicle behind, non physically challenged drivers parking in disability reserved parking, using extra-large tires without mud flaps to stop flinging stones, non courteous driving (non use of directional vehicle lights, no vehicle lights in low viability situations), non courteous shopping behavior in stores or sloppy services provided by technicians, and, a sense that cheating is alright as long as you don’t get caught. In a climate of “I can pick and chose which laws or rules apply to me, a degradation of the quality of life for the people you share space with is easily achieved. The lax attitude also makes graduating to perpetrating more serious transgressions a lot easier.
A trend like this is not a joke.
Cheating on taxes, insurance fraud (especially with Medicare) passing in no passing lanes, shoplifting, Affluenza type excuses for failures to obey laws, pilfering, theft, larceny, brutality and with the diminished value of life where even murder for absurd reasons is happening. Murder for a piece of fruit, for shoes, for a belt or even worse, just for fun. One more thing, I do not believe there is such a thing as a “victim-less” crime in any case. Someone does experience physical or emotional (psychological) harm even if the negative effect is not immediately recognizable by an act or behavior.
So to those who scoff at religion, especially “The Ten Commandments” and, scoff at the people who try to obey God’s Law, shame on you; I hope your distorted view of freedom in some way teaches you a personal lesson someday and you come to realize you do need God in your life. I hope you learn that lesson before it is too late. We all need God.
The Christian culture and tradition is the best for all people.
First, we Christians become Christians, not because we are better than anyone else, less likely to violate a law, never have bent a rule or have always treated everyone we have encountered with perfection. We have not always been guided perfectly by honoring “The Golden Rule,” have done unto to others what we would have them do to us. We know we are not perfect. We know because there is nothing we can do to gain favor with God. Therefore we accept that Jesus paid for our imperfection (our sins) with his life and from the moment we believe in Him, He covers our faulty image and we begin to change because we are grateful for His work and the ability to begin to acquire a new nature. We are being transformed from the inside out and that increases our sensitivity to sin so we can learn to turn away from doing wrong more and more each day. But if we stumble, then we confess, ask for forgiveness and continue on with our transformation of becoming more “Christ-Like.” We study God’s word and apply what we learn concerning good and bad, what is right from wrong and thus live a better life a little at a time as an ongoing process.
Yes there are fake Christians who exploit others, mislead others or violate others but those who are sincere, bring good into a world deeply steeped in selfishness, greed and revenge. I believe God, not because I can be certain of anything. I accept His truth on faith using my own free will. For that, I avoid life’s worst pit falls that would be of my own doing; I believe I have eternal life; I strive to do unto others what I would have others do unto me. Yes through Jesus I am assured salvation for eternity and out of gratitude I try to act better everyday.
In a fallen world we will never experience perfection but with a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, we can do better and, at the same time bring a glimpse of heaven to a world that seems oblivious of God’s desire for all people: God wants all people to enter into His Kingdom and experience eternal salvation and become true children of God. Free Will makes it your choice.
Excerpts from the Bible that promotes “The Greater Good.”
Jeremiah 29:11 ESV (Future)
11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
A Or peace
Philippians 2:4 ESV (better attitude)
4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
2 Timothy 3:2 – 4 ESV (The way it has become today))
2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, Jeremiah 29:11 ESV (Future) swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
Proverbs 21:13 ESV ESV (Ears that do not want to hear)
13 Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.
Isaiah 5:20 ESV (Calling bad good and good bad)
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Romans 2:8 ESV (payment for evil)
8 but for those who are self-seeking[a] and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
John 3:16 (Salvation through Jesus)
16 “For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.