Time to dou­ble down on the truth

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - Janet Col­li­ton Colum­nist

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, col­li­ton@col­li­ton­law.com. 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.

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