Time to double down on the truth
Truth took a serious hit in this election. It seemed that anything could be said. In fact, truth might have taken enough of a hit to cause us to question the point of taking Ethics courses as professionals or why bother to try. At the risk of sounding like a lecturer I would say that truth matters now more than ever. Here is why.
• Trust. Our society is based on the idea that most people tell the truth most of the time, at least as they understand it. Opinions can differ but facts mean something.
If a salesperson tells you a product or a system costs a given amount, we assume this is correct. If the bill comes back in a different amount we can be outraged.
If you are told in the financial services field you have immediate access to your money and discover later this is only after paying a substantial surrender fee or following excessive administrative fees, you can feel cheated.
When a researcher prepares a report and falsifies data so a contract can be awarded, users might be seriously injured by a defective product or a dangerous medication.
In law, my field, perjury is a crime. We ask “what is the evidence?” We probe credibility. This is a polite way of saying we
are testing to see whether a witness is lying. Opinions will differ but facts matter.
So why does this matter? One reason is if truth breaks down, trust breaks down too. Trust is the bond that holds a community together. We cannot fact check every statement all the time. We cannot rely on “I hear that…” or “Maybe some people might say that…” If we say something and the past can be played back to us refuting it we lose credibility and trust. We need to be able to trust and that means we need to speak the truth.
Speaking the truth also means not exaggerating and not leaving out the “whole truth.” Truth tellers can arrive at honest solutions. They can be trusted.
I have found over the years in law the more we tell the truth to clients the better it is for everyone. If the case is not winnable unless some conditions are met, the client deserves to know why. If using a complicated technique like multiple trusts for a simple estate is not suitable, the client should be told even if it means taking a lower fee.
When people have been cheated and swindled they might come to believe that no one in a given field can be trusted, even the ones who are telling the truth and this can be disastrous.
We were exposed in the past to a market meltdown because people could no longer trust that complicated financial instruments accurately reflected their value and the society was right. The time was preceded by falsifying information on a mammoth scale to make money. It was not the only time. • Is it the Truth? Some readers might turn back to religion to develop and understand truth but even for those who are not religious
a business group I have belonged to for the past 26 years has held a key. The organization is Rotary and the test is the “Four Way Test.” It states “Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”
A member of our Greater West Chester Sunrise Rotary Club died this past week. He was the embodiment of what it means to search out, understand and appreciate truth. Roger Taylor was the kind of person who always asked questions and did this without judging in advance. “Is this the right way? Does
this make sense? Is there a better way to do things? Am I missing something or is this the way it is?” Roger always questioned and was always fair. If the world were filled with Roger Taylor’s we would not be in the condition we are today.
I would call on us to examine what truth telling means to us and do it. It might seem now that remembering and repeating the honest truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth has no consequences but it does. Also remember Roger and treasure every good person like him.
Elder Law Associates PC, limits her practice to elder law, life care and special needs planning, Medicaid, estate planning and administration and guardianships and is located at 790 East Market St., Suite 250, West Chester, Pa. 19382, 610-436-6674, firstname.lastname@example.org. She is also, with Jeffrey Jones, CSA, cofounder of Life Transition Services LLC, a service for families with longterm care needs. Listen in to radio WCHE 1520 “50+ Planning Ahead” with Phil McFadden, Home Instead Senior Care, and Janet Colliton, Colliton Elder Law Associates, on Wednesdays at 4 p.m.