SHARING and CARING…it’s what LIFE is all about!

Is Telling The Truth Ever Optional? – Part II

Posted by on Jan 16, 2013 in Blog, Food for Thought, Quotes | 2 comments

…continued from my last post, with apologies for the length…

I seldom read The Toronto Star; on the other hand, Doug devours it whenever he has opportunity to read a copy, especially the Friday and Saturday editions. Filling in time during a TV commercial, I took the front page of the January 11th Friday edition from his lap. The heading had caught my eye: “Spence resigns as plagiarism scandal widens.”

Plagiarism: an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own ( What the definition doesn’t say is that it is lying. Let’s get rid of the smokescreen or colourful words that mask the deceit and call it what it is.

Chris Spence, the now debunked former director of education for the Toronto District School Board was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He was caught lying, and not just on one occasion when mercy may have been granted, as was suggested in Rosie Dimanno’s Friday column: “One indiscretion is forgivable, particularly when the culprit is not a professional journalist…but when the allegations started stacking up, then what you’ve got is a pattern and a pathology, not an anomaly.” And they did stack up, revealing a continual, self-glorifying habit, without fear of suspect or reprimand. Now Spence faces disgrace, a ruined career and a reputation as a cheater and a liar that will always follow him.

I’m reminded of the line penned by Sir Walter Scott: “O, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!” J. R. Pope, in A Word of Encouragement, added to this the lines, “But when we’ve practiced quite a while, how vastly we improve our style.” Actually, there is no style to lying and any fool can do it, especially to those who are trusting. No matter how accomplished a person is at lying, there is always someone better who can detect the lie (

Chris Spence has certainly discovered this to be true.

What I found equally hard to fathom was the comment by a teenager who brushed Spence’s behaviour off with an air of indifference: “So what? People make mistakes.” Does that grab you like it did me…in the pit of your stomach?

This statement brings me back to my former question “Where and how have we failed as a society?” if this is an indication of how apathetic such dishonest behaviour is being excused by our younger generation. Rick Salutin, another columnist for The Star summed it up rather succinctly: “But failure to take responsibility, misleading the young and breaching faith between generations remain heinous in any era.” He goes on to say, “But it would be nice if their elders and mentors didn’t make it much harder for (the kids). The human developmental process is rough enough as is.”

Well said, Mr. Salutin!

Lying, plain and simple…there’s no way around it, there are no other words to make it less ugly.

There now, having got that off my chest, let me take you back to my previous thoughts with the question: Is telling the truth ever optional?

Do I bleed all over our friends with “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” when someone asks me how  I am on a terrible-no-good-very-bad day? Of course not—at least I shouldn’t—especially if the question is asked out of mild interest and common courtesy. Maturity should dictate how I respond. Do I expect the truth when I ask Doug what he thinks of a new outfit that has a no-return policy? Or am I content with the little white lie, “It looks great!” when in fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that the new outfit makes me look ten pounds heavier! But, will hearing the truth be harder to bear than the ‘little white lie’?

Years ago Doug painted our bathroom ceiling and 3 walls black; I mean very black…four coats to get it right! (Of course it was my idea!) I wallpapered the long wall in a paisley print of black, bronzy-gold and white. With white fixtures and black walls, I thought it looked fantastic! Ross Gillmore, a very good friend and painter stood in the bathroom doorway listening to me expound on the beauty of what he was viewing when I put the question to him: “Do you like it?” I will never forget his answer: “Do you like it?” And after an emphatic yes, he replied, “That’s the main thing.”

Ross could have said he liked it, knowing it would have been exactly what I wanted to hear, especially coming from a professional painter. But he didn’t. He spoke the truth in a gentle way that has stayed with me for over thirty-five years!

But here’s the thing…would I be treading on thin ice if I suggested that at times the whole idea of being honest can be a paradoxical catch-22: solving one problem (being honest) but creating another (loosing a friend, upsetting your spouse or facing a damaged relationship or career)?

And then I’m reminded of a familiar expression: Honesty is the best policy, remembering that telling the truth or acting in a truthful manner is always the best option, actually the only option. If a person lies, it is likely for that person to lie again, which will most likely lead to another lie…and a vicious cycle begins. Chris Spence certainly found that out. And now, it seems, so did Lance Armstrong!

I find these thoughts very sobering. Where do I fit in? Am I guilty of ‘little white lies’? Probably. I feel the need to challenge myself and see just how many times throughout one day that I fall victim to the sin of lying, not necessarily by commission, but by omission or exaggeration of the truth…and yes, I need to call it sin because that’s what it is.

Anyone else up for the challenge?

Truth is the most valuable thing we have, so I try to conserve it ~ Mark Twain.

A half truth is a whole lie ~ Yiddish Proverb.

A lie may take care of the present, but it has no future ~ Author Unknown.

Truth is such a rare thing; it is delightful to tell it ~ Emily Dickinson.

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth ~ 1 John 3:18 (NIV).



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  1. Susan Duke

    Here, here. Well done Ruth. Something we all need to think about. Your prose continues to amaze.

    Your loving cousin-in-law


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