Over the last few months I have been thinking a lot about honesty, truth and integrity. These words, although frequently used by the media as relational buzzwords, seem to have become increasingly endangered and somewhat alien in a society that actively consumes and produces misinformation, half-truths and deceit.
Indeed we live in a culture that not only produces lies as a form of entertainment, but also rewards many people with fame and fortune following their very public admissions of guilt and deceit. A culture that not only rewards those who lie, but also publicly vilifies those who stand for unpopular or even uncomfortable truths, such as authentic Christianity.
In reality, we live in a culture today where telling the truth is hard, so much harder than lying. For telling the truth often bears many more responsibilities and consequences these days than lies and deceit ever do. Thus it is not difficult to determine why so many people today construct and dispel lies with so little regard for the consequences these lies have on another's persons feelings and reputation.
This has been a particularly confronting issue for me recently; after witnessing the impact that lies filled with wicked words and cruel intentions truly have on another person's life.
Yet while lies are destructive and sinful, most of us continue to lie on a daily basis. I'm not solely referring to complex lies, but also to the little white lies that often seem so harmless. However lying, even the little white lies, can be very destructive deeds in our lives. Indeed Austin O'Malley, an American physician and humorist who died in 1932, said that "those who think it is permissible to tell white lies soon grow colour blind".
So how do we stop lying, how do I stop lying, especially about the seemingly harmless things? As a Christian, how do I fight the ongoing temptation to be dishonest?
As I ponder these questions, I recognise that I have not always regarded honesty with such significance. In fact growing up my younger sister and I used to pride ourselves on being somewhat skilled liars. Whether we were blaming each other for a broken dish or the dog for our messy bedrooms (ambitious I know), lying for each of us never felt overly harmful, particularly when said lies proved beneficial in some way.
As my sister and I have grown up and matured, our sentiments towards lying have changed radically. Whilst I suppose my sister and I always identified the act and intention of lying to be wrong, even as children, it was not until we reached our late teens that we both came to grasp the full affect that dishonesty and untruths engender.
Although children fibbing over trivial issues may seem harmless, dishonesty can be a very hard habit to break, especially as we grow older and circumstances become more complex and consequences more severe. Thus if we allow ourselves to lie frequently with ease at any age, how can we stop? Doesn't it become easier to continue to lie, especially when we get away with it once? If there are no consequences than do we really regret the lie or learn a lesson?
In a letter to Peter Carr in 1785, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States of America, wrote a very perceptive paragraph on the practice and destructiveness of lying. He said:
"He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world's believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions".
In the bible Jesus also said in Matthew 12:36-37: "But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgement for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned".
Alison Barkley lives in Newcastle and is a post graduate student at Macleay College in Sydney in book editing and publishing.