As I watch what appears to be the moral decline of the world in general, but America in particular, I wonder; “Is honesty optional?” It is common in political races for one person, or one party, to accuse the other of dishonesty. When that dishonesty is shown to be a fact, the American public seems comfortable accepting the leadership of dishonest people.
Another fallacy comes about when the accusation of dishonesty is accepted without question. I don’t know of a single parent who would raise their children to believe that dishonesty will pave the road to success. I don’t know an individual who enjoys the exercise of collecting information when they can’t have confidence in the accuracy of the information collected.
When a country loses faith in the credibility of their leaders, it is as devastating to the culture as when a child loses confidence in the credibility of their parents. We seem to have reached a point in our cultural development where there is a significant disconnect between what we expect as individuals and what we believe we should be able to expect as a population. We have reached a point, it seems, where reasonable communication gets blocked by name-calling and distraction. People don’t bother to know where the information originates or whether it is accurate.
After serving over 23 years in the military, I reflect on the respect for leadership that was based on honesty and integrity. Dishonest leaders were considered to be weak leaders because the ability to believe in them was undermined. The same concept holds true with public officials. The end does not justify the means if dishonesty is used to attain the end. Lying to defend a point or lying if you can’t make a point should bring with it doubt and questioning of all of the other information.
There is a jury instruction in the legal system called “witness faults in part.” It carried (or at least used to carry with it) the consequence that, if a witness was found to be dishonest, it drew into question all of their testimony. This does not even seem to be the case anymore in the courtroom.
My recommendation to people, and what I find myself doing, is adhere to that former standard that people who are dishonest, regardless of their public position or motivation, are largely not to be believed. A statement that is incorrect but is thought to be honest is not a lie. Knowingly and willfully misrepresenting the truth is a lie and is a threat to future credibility. I don’t hold myself, friends, family or public officials to any different standard.
Honesty is NOT optional, nor is it negotiable.