"Pilate asked Jesus, 'What is Truth?' " John 18:38I have to admit that lately I have been perplexed and saddened by the amount of lying going on in the world around me. At the highest levels of government, lying is the order of the day. Not that lying politicians are anything new, but the brazenness with which they do it now is over the top. I think we are all reeling from the unprecedented levels of mendacity and corruption we are witnessing. As we are being constantly gas-lighted and worn down, we too slip into a denial (lying to ourselves) believing that this level of mendacity is benign as long as it doesn't affect our daily lives.
I have also observed that lying is quite common in everyday life. I do not limit lying to telling a falsehood. I also include the failure to fully disclose the truth. By failing to fully disclose a truth, we lead people to believe a false narrative about a situation, which reduces to a lie. Decisions are made based on this information, which may have some seed of truth, but because salient information is not disclosed, the situation implied is nowhere near the truth of it.
We expect that a lie is admitted when confronted by irrefutable evidence. Now the highest levels of government, lies exposed are answered with even bigger lies. Having to push so hard to get at the truth is exhausting. It wears us at down. It tempts us to accept the liar's narrative. The status-quo. But going along to get along eats our soul, one bite at a time.
"Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites... It starts with your sitting silent while he lies, both in public and private, making you complicit by your silence. In meetings with him, his assertions about what “everyone thinks” and what is “obviously true” wash over you, unchallenged..." -James ComeyIn the presence of a liar we may find moments of strength to say "We will not cover for you". Many more times we quietly go along with the bullshit. More typically we practice denial. We don't want to believe something, so we tell ourselves it isn't so. We don't want to believe someone is addicted, embezzling funds, take sexual liberties with someone in their charge, or cheating on their spouse. It's risky to the status quo, to our station in life, to challenge the lies. The cost to challenge a lie is high. But the cost of living with a lie is even higher.
Every lie told, every lie believed borrows from a future reality. Life has a way of being real. We can deny (lie) that the science of human-induced climate change is true, but mother nature is having none of it. We can see that with our own eyes. We are experiencing back-to-back weather extremes that should be once in a hundred or five hundred year events. Because we have been in denial, lied to ourselves for so long, we aren't prepared to respond to the immediate consequences of reality, much less mitigate it in the future.
So what are the cost of lies? Belief in others. Belief in ourselves. Belief in objective truth. A completely lost ability to recognize truth itself. Our brains rewire themselves into a state of cynical distrust. Distrust is the PTSD response of having been lied to. This leads to cynicism, the terminal stage of distrust. At that point, we trust no one and no thing.
We may try to maintain a cognitive dissonance that lying in a broader or higher context is benign. That the lying is so far out of our scope that it won't affect us. However life, being real, will smack us back to reality. Ask top career officials in government who thought they could ride out the Trump administration. They were hastily promoted to cabinet offices as their predecessors quit or were fired. They thought they could hide, but now they are exposed. They have to either have to live the lie to preserve their careers or resign to keep their integrity intact.
The truth is always dangerous because it challenges the status-quo.
"Our environment lacks truth. And when truth is spoken, it gives offense, and the voices that speak the truth are put to silence. " - St Oscar Romero
"No person is more hated than one who speaks the truth" - Plato
Yet the truth must be faced, accepted, and ultimately spoken. First, we have to speak the truth to ourselves. This risks the death of our ego. Speaking a truth to others can result in the death of a relationship or even, as in the case of Romero, actual death. But the alternative, though it seems safer and easier, is bleak. To continue living a lie borrows (or perhaps steals) truth and reality from the future. When we eventually arrive at the future, we find we have borrowed against what is true and real and now there is nothing left to live on.
So back to Pilate's question: What is truth? The answer was standing in front of Pilate in the person of Jesus. Not only in a mystical, metaphysical way, although I'll leave space for that. Truth resided in the earthly person of Jesus because his life and his words were consistent in every context of his life. What you saw is what you got, no matter what the setting. He embodied truth because his life was fully integrated. There was no distance between his life and his words. Those in power recognized the threat Jesus posed. Here was a person of such impenetrable integrity, whose words, life, and being were so unified that no carrot or stick could corrupt him into complicity or silence. Jesus had to be eliminated. Jesus knew the cross was where this would end. That is the challenge and the model for us.