Truth matters

A Christian Science perspective: Why honesty and integrity matter, and the consequences of ignoring the truth.

“You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts,” the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once famously said. Yet, if the logic of the saying seems obvious, the efforts to defy it seem endless.

During one recent week, the news reported on one high-profile US politician who was spotlighted for repeatedly retelling a moment of American history – and folding some invented “facts” into the retelling. That same week, another politician, from the opposing political party, told a series of untruths about events in his personal life. And across the Atlantic, a leader on the world stage told lies both to and about his people.

The habit of ignoring truth, whether in politics or elsewhere, degrades the public discourse. It slows momentum in the workplace and is a drag on the economy. At the same time, a pattern of truthfulness in speech and action elevates the political and nonpolitical conversation, and gets them back on a surer footing. Trust becomes more the norm, and reasserts its healthy impact on society. The truth matters – it matters to us all.

For anyone longing to expand the role of truth in both the public conversation and in private behavior, there is an invaluable tool available to anyone willing to take it up: prayer. It's not prayer that pushes this agenda or that point of view. Rather, it's prayer at its purest; prayer that humbly affirms the nature of God to be Truth itself – and the genuine nature of each one of us to be the likeness of God, of Truth.

In spiritual fact, it is as native to man (and woman) to speak truthfully, as it is native to God to do so. It is natural for the truth to put down roots in each human heart, and take up permanent residence there. This presence of God-derived truth, when realized in prayer, produces an inner urging to be honest. To do the right thing. To value accuracy over expediency. To stay true to God’s directing.

Consider an example from the Old Testament, involving Balaam. To an extraordinary degree he seems to have grasped the need to remain true to God’s commands above all else.

Balak, king of Moab, had directed Balaam to curse the Israelites, who were about to enter Canaan. However, much like a subordinate in the workplace who refuses to lie for the boss or to conceal shoddy workmanship, Balaam responded to a higher charge.

When it became clear what had and had not happened, King Balak summoned Balaam. The spiritual visionary, with total candor, explained to the king, “How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the Lord hath not defied? ... Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it” (Num. 23:8, 20).

Just as the nature and action of God are central to the Bible, they are also central to the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Mary Baker Eddy. Seven Bible-based synonyms for God stand out: Mind, Soul, Spirit, Principle, Life, Love, and Truth. One approach to understanding these synonyms is to consider not just what they are, but also what they do. For instance, God as Love cherishes you. God as Mind knows you. God as Life renews you.

And God as Truth? Truth moves you. There is no immobilizing of Truth or of you as Truth’s expression. Truth does not allow stagnation to set in. Truth propels you ahead. All of the 18 chapters in “Science and Health” explore the nature and power of God. Just one includes a synonym for God in its title, “Footsteps of Truth.” No inertia can retard the forward march of Truth.

Imagine, for a moment, a scene where no one trusts anyone. Shared endeavor all but disappears. Fear of getting cheated minimizes productivity. Commerce slows to a crawl. But wait! These imaginings assume an impossibility – the absence of ever-present and ever-active Truth. When it comes to the stagnation spawned by untruthfulness versus the activity born of divine Truth, the outcome is not a toss-up. Truth alone is power. Truth alone is present. Truth, and only Truth, has transforming strength.

A divine urging impels you, impels each one of us, to move, to take the footsteps of infinite Truth that lead higher. With each step, we glimpse more clearly why honesty matters, and why Truth can’t help but get expressed in more and more truthfulness. “Truth is always the victor,” affirms "Science and Health" (p. 380).

Adapted from an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.

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