We lie. Alright, let me “soften” that; we have the ability to lie. That is, not tell the truth when we have evidence to the contrary. I’m not talking about having a difference in perspective (six can be nine depending on how you look at it…) but basically representing a belief as true that we know to be false. Or vice versa.
Why do we do that? We learn to do it as soon as we learn to communicate, even non-verbally. We’ve heard babies cry, well beyond their level of discomfort, to get their needs met. So, there’s a clue; we misrepresent what we know internally to be true in order to get our needs met. We all have needs as humans, and they vary widely. How those needs get met color the discussion around what the truth looks like, and more directly, how we communicate that to others. So, we attempt to persuade, to convince, to sell, actually: part of our daily communication is an attempt to further our agenda; to convince others to come over to our way of thinking.
If we go far enough back in time, the Truth was subject to new information. The world is flat, the world is round. Still, some of that information was also subject to perspective. History for instance, has always had a bias to it. If our history books about American history were written by those that were populating this land before the Europeans got here, it would be a much different story.
I grew up in a time when we learned from our limited social sphere and what we were taught in school. Books were important to me; we had a set of World Book encyclopedias, which I read on a regular basis. We also had newspapers and magazines. And we had television. Our expectation was that those people that were preparing that information for us were doing it with a high intention of telling the Truth.
In our system of law in this country, when we are sworn in to testify, we promise to “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…”
And yet, there are those who would perjure themselves, to avoid prosecution, to get away with something, to further their own agenda.
For the most part, in our minds and hearts, we know when we are lying, when we are consciously attempting to deceive. Where there is a potential disconnect is in interpreting the information we receive from others, whether it is the spoken word, the written word or images we receive through the media. And so we make a determination upon receiving information about whether or not that information is true. Our default reaction is acceptance, especially that which we see with “our own eyes.” But more and more, that visual input is conveyed through virtual means and yet, we see it “with our own eyes.”
The spoken word we learn not to trust as much; we learn early on that verbal communication is imperfect, even with the best of intentions. And so, the Truth, verbally, is a more elusive concept to grasp. Then, you can throw the whole ball of wax out the window when the intent of the speaker is to deceive. Words flow out, sometimes in a most mellifluous order, that we accept as truth largely because that is the default, but more often because we want to believe that what we are hearing is the Truth.
When I was growing up, I trusted that World Book as gospel (no, not that gospel; that’s a whole ‘nother discussion…). I mean, there it was “in black and white.” And when I would read the newspaper: also true. And Walter Cronkite? C’mon… it was Cronkite!
Times have changed. Fast forward to the Information Age. We can now disseminate information in ways and at a speed that was unthinkable even a generation ago. We are now faced with a daily challenge about what information we choose to accept as input and perhaps as importantly, what we accept as the Truth. Maybe it’s because of our sheer numbers that there is so much to filter out but it’s probably has more to do with mode of delivery. An event can occur on the other side of the planet and we can know about it instantly.
And, then, like in individual encounter, there are those that would endeavor to deceive the masses: out of malice, to profit or simply for the sake of entertainment and attention.
Our challenge therefor, is two-fold. First, to be vigilant about not only what we expose ourselves to, but with how discerning an eye and ear we accept what is valid.
And then, if this state of affairs is as deplorable (for wont of a better term) to you as it is to me, we have to be more honest ourselves. Honest with ourselves, and honest with others, and having that honesty run through a filter of consideration and kindness.
Let’s not have selfishness and disregard for others be the new normal…