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  • Reverend James Squire

Lying




One of the core ingredients leading to moral behavior is seeking after truth. It is interesting to note that various categories of lying which leads to the immoral life have been found in the news in recent days.


There is lying that is based in “spin” which is one of the key ways that politicians circumnavigate the truth. An example of this type of lie was clearly evident in Kevin McCarthy’s explanation for his comments about Trump after the insurrection on January 6. He first said that he never suggested that Trump resign but later when a tape of the comment that he made about Trump surfaced, he had to figure out a way to “spin” it so that he could continue his climb to his goal of Speaker of the House. He commented that “he was merely engaging in a conversation of scenarios.”


We witnessed the quasi trial of Margery Taylor Greene to keep her off the ballot. When the questions struck home, she repeatedly used the phrase, “I can’t recall.” When she was challenged on the fact that she did make repeated accusations against people such as Nancy Pelosi being a traitor, she entered into that other phase of lying that “what I was trying to say was…” or some other version of the right to remain silent as a constitutional right. It was ironic that our liar in chief famously said that “only the mob takes the 5th.” Marjorie still has difficulty with what she wrote that the former liar in chief “should declare Marshall Law so that he could remain in office” which is a clear violation of the 14h amendment which prohibits someone from holding elected office. When the person who interrogated her on the stand was asked if she was lying, he replied, “It sure looks like it, but that is up to a judge to decide.” That is still to be determined.


There is also those who know that they have lied, and appeal to a loophole in the prosecution’s argument. Challenge due process if you lie or do something wrong. Right now, in Philly there is the conviction of John Dougherty, a union chief, for fraud and many other crimes that the prosecution accused him of doing, but evidence was gathered on him by having a whistleblower among his closest confidants who may have gotten information on Dougherty’s court strategy which got back to the feds about other issues. That could be illegal.


Schools are sued as well. I am only aware of one independent school in our area that was sued for expelling a student where the parents and their attorneys won the case. The student had to be reinstated by court order. You guessed it! The school did not follow due process as stated in the school handbook about how possible punishments should be researched and handled.


We also have that category of lying where the guiding principle of the liar is that if you are going to lie, lie boldly. Of course, our liar in chief stands at the head of the class on this one, but you have to remember how Elizabeth Holmes was the poster child of success with her blood testing company, Theranos. She faced 11 counts of fraud and lying to her investors, patients, and others to raise money and the profile of her company. Her news story read like something that you would see streamed on Netflix. She was found guilty of four charges of fraud.


Sissela Bok has written a comprehensive book on lying whose key point is that people who lie early in life tend to lie as a fulltime profession later in life. It is why we need ethics courses and character education to at least attempt to tell truth sharing ways of seeing the world. Truth does make us free although I always made the point with my students that telling the truth may make you miserable in the short run. People who are pleasure oriented lie because of that simple reason of the short-term price that they may have to pay.


One of the great lies itself is that, for the most part, people don’t know the difference between right and wrong. They do but there are exceptions to that caveat. Usually, they fall under the heading of the really big decisions that are loaded with gray such as, “What should be done by us and NATO to halt the war crimes in Ukraine and to stop Russia from taking over Europe particularly when they are saber rattling about the possibility of using a nuclear weapon.


The other issue that is often misunderstood is the assumption that liars are not intelligent in other areas of life. Your IQ has nothing to do with your ability to tell the truth. One of the heroes of understanding moral development is Dr. Robert Coles of Harvard University. He taught an ethics course to these very bright students. One of his star students did exceptional work in class. However, Coles discovered that this same student was very abusive to the custodian who had to clean his room. His star only shined in the classroom not in daily life. We need to learn to be good. Aristotle said that we become good by doing good over and over developing habits of the heart.


In the preface to my book, This Too Shall Pass, Dr. Crosby, founder and director of the Uncommon Individual Foundation, made two comments that emphasize what I have been saying. Dr. Crosby wrote, “President Harry Truman, whose presidency included the decision of dropping the bomb, said he had no trouble doing the right thing. He had trouble knowing the right thing to do. Jim Squire wants your behavior to match your beliefs, particularly when others aren’t looking.” John goes on to say, “As Harvard professor and Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Coles, in just eight words, summarizes his book, The Moral Intelligence of Children, ‘Do as I do, not as I say.”


Eight words that could reduce lying and make Washington and the world a better place.

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