What price to pay for honesty?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 6, 2002

It can be so easy in the beginning -- nothing but words. Peace will follow for some time after the moment has passed, but the price of those words will be paid in full in the future. You pay no attention to the consequences of a sigh -- even if a lie swims beneath.

Life is a jumbled mess of messages concerning the penalties and purpose of a lie. White lies, fibs, sinful lies -- is a lie not a lie regardless of its intent? How is "stretching the truth" different from "hiding the truth"? Are they not altered perceptions of the actual truth? A difference does exist between the simple white lie and the dark, devious lie. Those who have uttered such words and felt the consequences are aware of these differences.

I can speak from such experience. I am sure we can all speak from such experience. Lies differ in their intent and their effect. It is the subtle differences that can turn a simple breath into a heated bullet.

I do not wish to focus on the consequences imposed by the government. We do have laws concerning perjury and false information, but those penalties are written in ink. There are no surprises. The path is already measured and the force of impact is already weighed before your lips even begin to part. I would much rather focus on the lies that do incur a stint in a jail cell or a hefty dollar amount.

The uncertainty of life's consequences and penalties is much more, for lack of a better word, interesting. It is hard to know when you will pay for a lie. It could be some distance down the road before the broken truth comes back to haunt you. One thing is certain -- lies do collect interest. Lies germinate with time and inch their way into the crevices of life. You may learn to live with a lie, but it will change you in the process.

Let me define some differences in lies before my message becomes riddled with a jumbled mass of hysteria.

Lie exist on several various areas. We all know of the common lie that denies stating the obvious truth to save face.

"Do these jeans make me look fat?" your husband, wife, girlfriend or boyfriend says sincerely. What if the jeans do indeed make him or her look fat? Do you tell him or her the truth? Now part of you wants to tell the truth, but the other side of your mind wonders what a little lie would hurt. These lies seldom draw any real consequences. You tell a little lie and spare the harsh truth. It is the acceptable lie -- the social lie. Now we come to the flip side.

The dark, devious lie is meant for the sole purpose of "hiding the truth." It may be misleading to label these lies as dark and devious, but I cannot think of a better label. Two types of scenarios can be used to sum up this category.

Here is the first scenario. It is Saturday night and a group of your friends are planning a big party down by the lake. You tell your parents that a good movie is playing at the local theater and you would like to see the late show, but you never make it to the movies. You do not think about the consequences of such an action until they are upon you. What if the party is busted? What if your parents rush to the movie theater with an emergency? You won't be there.

Here is the second scenario. You have been helping a close friend search for his or her birth parents and you discover their names. You also learn that they passed away some time ago in a car accident. Do you tell your friend the truth or do you hide the truth in an attempt to spare any possible grief?

The chemistry and calculations of a lie have no certain formula. There is no way to justify a lie or plot its course. The bottom line remains that a lie is a lie. Beyond the bottom line exists a catacomb of decisions to be made and jagged roadways to travel to the truth and the purpose.

All of these questions could be eliminated by adopting an attitude of complete honesty -- be blunt and direct. We all know that adopting such a philosophy would lead to disaster. We all desire the truth, but sometimes it is best if we do not know the truth. Sometimes the price of honesty is a bit too high to pay in one life time. The questions is, what price are you willing to pay for honesty?