I’m not lying when I say untruth has been on my mind a lot. A few days ago I posted on freedom of speech and how it’s an ideal rather than an actuality. What with lies being lobbed at us daily, I got to thinking about the ethical implications for honesty. Integrity. The freedom to state what we actually think is something a little different. How often in daily life do we act authentically? And when we’re with others we act differently than when we’re alone. Which is truly us? Someone pointed out to me recently that if you walk with someone your body language is different than if you walk alone. Even walking alone your body language shows your interior frame of mind. A sad walk isn’t the same as a happy walk.
As social creatures, the ideal of being forthright all of the time would lead to chaos. All of us lie, one way or another, at times. That’s where integrity comes in. Integrity, it seems to me, indicates someone who is honest, all things being equal. I once noticed a politician who blinked every time he said the word “God.” That blink, I believe, was a form of “scare quote.” I don’t know, but I suspect said politician didn’t have any strong belief in a deity. Some circumstances require that you pay lip service anyway. Ethics dictates that we try to be honest, but even keeping secrets is a kind of lie of omission. Our own personal wants—which are honest—often have to be suppressed for the sake of fairness. Again, we live in a situation where the most powerful pursue their own desires while neglecting the needs of others. Is this then integrity?
Often I ponder what it means to be social creatures. Some of us are naturally introverts. We nevertheless rely on others because society is too complex. What any one person could build an iPhone single-handedly, and then set up the 3G, 4G, or 5G network on which to use it? Could that same person grow their own food, manufacture their own automobile, and construct their own house? The self-made rugged individualist is a myth we cherish, but it too is an untruth. We rely heavily on others and we count on those closest to us to be honest. When lying becomes a lifestyle integrity lies in tatters on the floor. Just three years ago I wouldn’t have been having such thoughts, if I’m honest with myself.