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Writing my religion

I write frequently about truth and lies in this column. I guess it’s because I believe, bottom line, that truth, lies, and the intentions behind them, are what make our character.

And the pursuit of character — which for me means living with integrity, honor, and truth – is as close to having a religion as I come.

I often falter or outright fail in the practice of my faith. No surprise there. I comfort myself, though, with the hope that perhaps character lies at least partly in the effort to have one in the first place.

While I’m forgiving about my own lapses, I’m sometimes less so when it comes to the lapses of others. Not very fair, huh? Still, I prefer to be around people who are at least trying to live with integrity — people who have evolved past the self-serving truthiness, the “I didn’t tell you because you never asked,” kind of ethos that worms through most relationships.

A while back, I told a friend I felt he wasn’t being straight with me. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I knew what his response would be. I could see it in the panicked flicker of his eyes, the involuntary scrunching of his shoulders – and sure enough, out it came: “Everything I’ve said to you was true …” he began confidently, then added sheepishly, “… I just didn’t tell you everything.”

Ah. The slippery slope.

I didn’t feel hurt personally by his lies of omission (whatever they were, at that point, I didn’t even want to know) but my spirit took a blow, as if a great fissure had cracked across the continent of my religion.

We were friends; good ones, I’d thought. He didn’t need to be coy with the truth. I’d already given my friendship, my acceptance. His dissimulation wasn’t worthy of him or me. And that’s what hurt.

The question isn’t whether we owe the complete and total truth to everyone, about everything.

The question is: are we telling and disclosing everything someone would want to know, should know, deserves to know, in the context of their relationship to us?

Or are we just telling them what we want them to know — to avoid confrontation, an uncomfortable conversation, or worse, to manipulate a situation the way we want it?

The difference is something you know and feel in your bones. And so does the other person. Truth will out, whether it’s spoken or not.

I’ve told my share of lies, unfortunately. And whether it was an outright lie, a white lie or the ever-popular “lie of omission,” every single time, my distortion of the truth cheapened the relationship with the person to whom I lied, and, more importantly, it cheapened my own character.

We’re bombarded with lies and half-truths and double-speak every day. It’s become the norm to play fast and loose with the truth. But I don’t want to live that way. I want to believe character matters, despite way too much evidence to the contrary — despite my own shortcomings, despite the shortcomings of others.

I don’t want to lose my religion.

Posted on September 7th, 2009Comments RSS Feed
3 Responses to Writing my religion
  1. “the pursuit of character….integrity, honor and truth…” Now that would be a religion I could get behind! Where do I sign up??

  2. Thanks for reading Carolyn … you signed up! :) All best and Happy Labor Day!

  3. […] MC Coolidge on lying: “I’ve told my share of lies, unfortunately. And whether it was an outright lie, a white […]


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