I turned to the CTV news this morning and discovered that another aspiring politician, erstwhile Toronto mayoral candidate Adam Giambrone, has had his private infidelity exposed and has stepped down from the race to succeed outgoing mayor David Miller. When the story first broke and it appeared that Giambrone was planning to stay in the mayoral race, one of the most perceptive commentators on the story observed ironically, “Don’t worry, a politician’s private integrity has nothing to do with his public integrity. Right…”
In a post on the Tiger Woods saga a few weeks ago, I commented that none of us is in a position to condemn public figures for their personal moral failures. I stand by this assertion, but that doesn’t mean that the rapid decline in standards of public integrity isn’t a cause for concern. I can’t help noticing that Canadians seem increasingly cynical about the truthfulness of politicians, business people, spiritual leaders, employers, and other authority figures. Effective leadership in any arena requires that trust be established. In an atmosphere of general cynicism about the motives and integrity of leaders, this task becomes much more difficult.
The Torah contains a fascinating chapter (Leviticus 27) on vows. Essentially these rules were put in place as incentives for people to keep the vows that they had made to the Lord. The unstated assumption behind this teaching is that in our fallen, corrupted condition, we humans are inclined to try to weasel out of promises if they become too costly or inconvenient. By the time of Jesus this had apparently become commonplace, prompting him to address the issue head-on by saying that making vows or oaths is a bad idea. His point was that people of integrity don’t need to use vows or oaths to certify that what they’re about to say is really true – they just tell the truth, all the time. So, for example, Jesus would say that swearing on the Bible in court should have no impact on your testimony; if you are truthful, you are truthful all the time.
It’s easy to become disappointed or even offended at leaders who are untrustworthy. However, since we can’t change others but only ourselves, a more productive response is to examine our own hearts. Do we exhibit the qualities of truthfulness and trustworthiness that we look for in others? Jesus said, Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one. In other words – please just tell the truth.
The choice to walk a straight path rather than a crooked one is a daily decision; it’s a reflection of our basic convictions about life. The book of Proverbs (10:9) reminds us that our truthfulness – or lack thereof – will eventually become visible to all. There is no “truthfulness switch” that can be turned on or off at will. Integrity may not seem very exciting and it’s not always convenient, but it is absolutely foundational to a believable testimony and a stable and productive life.
Do I want the people I work with to know that they can believe what I say without question? Then I need to practice truthfulness all the time – even when I have just made a mistake, and an honest report might make me look bad. Even if I look bad because of my mistake, in the end an honest report will win me a better reputation than a lie to save face. And in the eyes of God – whose verdict is the only one that ultimately matters – truthfulness always looks infinitely better than any attempt to hide or camouflage the truth.
Do I want my children to be truthful with me? Then I need to be truthful in all my dealings. If I cheat on my taxes by making meal or travel claims that don’t reflect reality just because I can get away with it, should I be surprised when my child cheats on an exam? If I can lie when it’s convenient, why can’t he? If I ask my child to tell an unwanted caller that I’m not at home, I shouldn’t be surprised later on to find my child betraying my trust. If she can lie for me, she can lie to me.
Do I want to have good sex with my wife? Then I need to be transparent with her. Sex is not only physical – it is about emotional and spiritual intimacy. I can’t expect my wife to desire intimacy with me if I’m hiding things from her. A liar is a divided person; but she didn’t marry part of me, she married all of me. If I expect my wife to be excited about being with me, I need to bring my whole self to the marriage bed.
Do I want to please the Lord more than I want to please myself or anyone else? Do I genuinely believe that He is trustworthy and rewards those who place their trust in Him? Do I understand that truthfulness and humility attract the favour of God? If I understand these things, then I will be highly motivated to ask God daily to cleanse and train my heart, and make of me a person whose character reflects His integrity and uprightness.
Will someone please just tell the truth? Good question. Let’s be that person.