Morass of Moralessness

So, I’ve been away.

I rode along with my son as he drove across the United States in a cross-country move to San Francisco. We covered 12 states in five days. Three thousand miles. All of it (except for about ten miles on each end) on Interstate 80. An amazing trip. (We live in an amazing land). Here’s the story:

Two weeks ago, my hubby and I flew to Brooklyn to help Eric move. We spent two days in his apartment, working. We separated the things that would go with the movers from the essentials that would ride along in the car. We packed boxes, cleaned floors, threw away trash. We packed suitcases, filled garbage bags and chose electronics to be recycled. And then we filled a POD with his stuff and watched as a forklift loaded this plywood box filled with all his earthly belongings onto a truck. (I highly recommend this method, by the way).

As of today, it’s already arrived in San Francisco.

Interestingly, when we had his apartment inspected, the man who helped us told us something interesting. We needed to formally ask  for Eric’s damage deposit back; the manager had  advice. “You want your whole deposit back?” He said, “Tell them you lost your job here. Tell them you got fired.”

Eric hadn’t lost a job. He was moving just one month short of his one year lease date. I said, “Well, he does have to be in San Francisco for a new job. He had no choice about that.” (Eric will be doing a fellowship in research at a facility in San Francisco).

“No. Don’t tell her that. Tell her you lost your job, that you couldn’t help it, you had to leave. Tell her that.”

He made no bones about it. Lying was the only way we’d get our deposit back.

Then this week, I went to a training event at REI in Seattle. The lady speaking was a Tri coach. She told us about a client of hers, someone she had trained as a tri-athelete, who was about to start a race. This was the story: “She asked me if she should wear her wet suit for the swim. She didn’t think she would. It didn’t feel right to wear it. She asked me about it. Now, she had been my client. I had trained her. Now she was my competitor. I told her, ‘don’t wear the suit.’ And, I beat her out of the water. She should have worn the suit.”

The coach, who was now her competitor, lied.

I won’t bore you. But I’m amazed at the ways that lies have become acceptable parts of language. The old expression, “If the lips are moving, he’s lying,” seems to more applicable every day. It’s everywhere. And truth be told (that’s the point after all), it’s easy to slip into half-truths and slight of hand when it comes to honesty.

Here are the ways that I fail to tell the truth: I may not actually out and out lie to you, but I will carefully lead you down a blind alley. As a result, you’ll come to a false conclusion; but I didn’t actually tell you anything that wasn’t strictly true. Sometimes, I let you assume falsehoods without correcting you. Sometimes, I leave out details that are condemning. I’m especially good at these slight-of-hand mistruths when it comes to being late.

I’m often late. I get busy. I lose track of time. And then, five minutes after I should have left, I look for my keys and can’t find them. Later, when I arrive late, I say, “I couldn’t find my car keys.” True. BUT, if I’d started on time, I would have been LESS late. Do you see what I mean?

It’s the same thing when I tell my husband about something I purchased. I start out saying, “It was 30% off.”

Today, the Puyallup School District has lost a great principal. Scott Brittain was “investigated,” by his supervisor for “insubordination, and lying.” In frustration, Scott resigned. Personally, I’ve never known a better principal. Scott is a gifted administrator who will find a job with another school district. We  lose.

I don’t know if Scott really lied. No one ever will; the investigation was closed. But when I think of the ways that lying is commonplace in our world, and the ways that I mislead others, even when I so value truthfulness, I am saddened.

How about you? Have you been instructed to lie at work? Have you been tempted to lie to keep someone else from being hurt? Have you struggled with personal honesty?

When it comes to liars, I will never  be the one to throw the first stone. I am afraid of the bruising that I deserve. When I observe others casually throwing truth out the window, it makes me realize how very steep and slippery the slope of truth may be. It’s hard work staying up on the cliff of truth. I think it’s worth it. How about you?

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