Lying is so common place in our society that people don’t blink when confessing they are going to tell one or are actually committing the act.
In the past couple of weeks, I have had students who have done the following:
Suggested that another student who was seeking a job lie about her employment history. The student said that her friend did it and that she served as a “reference” for her. Her friend got the job.
This same student when asking whether she should include a questionable job entry on her resume (she decided to quit abruptly after four months of employment) said that if someone decided to call this employer for a reference she, the student, would supply him/her with a person, a friend, not employed by the company, who would speak to the student’s history with that company.
And another student, when seeking clarification about how to approach a recently given business letter assignment, asked if she could “lie”, her words not mine, about a specific detail. (She wanted to write that the check was in the mail, when clearly, nothing stated in the assignment said that it was.)
In each instance, I implored the student tell the truth. It was a hard sell.
In a culture in which lying seems to be a well-justified means to a desired end, why are we so shocked, or perhaps we aren’t, that Marion Jones, the former world class runner and Olympic Gold medalist, recently and tearfully admitted to “making false statements to federal agents” about steroid drug use? She faces up to six months in jail. And if she does not relinquish them willingly, will be stripped of her five Olympic gold medals.
In her own words:
“It is with a great amount of shame that I stand before you and tell you that I have betrayed your trust,” Jones said. “I have been dishonest, and you have the right to be angry with me. I have let [my family] down. I have let my country down, and I have let myself down. I recognize that by saying I’m deeply sorry, it might not be enough and sufficient to address the pain and hurt that I’ve caused you. Therefore, I want to ask for your forgiveness for my actions, and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”
Years ago, my mother told me that I can’t always tell the truth. I vehemently disagreed. I can and choose to tell the truth regardless of the consequence.
I, like many others, realized from an early age that most people who choose to be duplicitous suffer little for their actions. In fact, if they are able to amass great wealth or prestige, those actions are highly praised.
I don’t have comb the world of celebrity, high finance, or publishing to find a relevant and revealing example. Someone I know actually created a diploma to cover a lie she told to her relatives about having graduated from college. (The diploma is question was from the institution she was attending.) Since she is now successful, nothing much is made of her act.
I am glad that Marion Jones decided to admit to wrongdoing after years of lying. But she is only one person who has come to realize the error of her ways.
Have we traveled too far down that slippery slope of casual and not-so-casual deception to ever climb back to moral higher ground?