Honesty is definitely a very important value. Honesty, or the lack thereof, can make or break a marriage, a company, a friendship, a team …
I was reading a book one day about a man and his contemplations as to why he was booted out from a prominent position in a company he had worked for for a long time. Everything was going so well and there were no apparent reasons for him to lose that job. Had he missed something? Was he so involved in his own world that he couldn’t see the proverbial ‘handwriting on the wall’? This situation caused him to sit down and take stock of his life and everything he believed in and had fought for (a good thing to do every decade or so…). As I was internalising the text of the personal conclusions of this desperate man, I came across a quote that very much spoke to me. It said, ‘Every truth taken to an extreme becomes error.’ Since then, this citation has become the touchstone of my personal philosophy on just about everything.
Back to honesty. Is honesty always the best policy? I would say that in business dealings, children towards their parents, 99% yes (since we don’t know everything, to say 100% could lead to an erroneous statement). But what about relationships? A friend of mine praised his wife to me one time. He said she was ‘brilliant’ because one day she said to him, ‘You really don’t have to always say everything you think!” or in other words, the ‘honest’ word of truth spoken in the wrong time, place, and/or spirit can hurt and kill more than help and heal. Sometime, the best way to tell the truth is even to say nothing at all as there is much more truth in silence than in all that is uttered.
As an application, I’d like to share a very appropriate version of the biblical story of Noah and his family. The biblical text tells us that after the flood, Noah planted a vineyard, got drank, and that one of his sons, Ham, found him naked in his tent. We are then told that the first thing he did was to tell Shem and Japheth, his brothers, who in order to protect the dignity of their father, walked in the tent backward (so not to lay eyes upon him) and covered him with a blanket. As a result, Noah cursed Ham’s grandson and blessed his two brothers, Why? Because Ham publicly exposed his father’s drunken state, while his brothers covered his shame. It is from this understanding of the story that this famous proverb may come from, ‘Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. (King Solomon in Proverbs 17:9)
Rubbing shoulders with gun safety instructors, looking over gun safety pamphlets, and hanging around the shooting range in Clackamas county, I couldn’t help but notice that when it comes to gun safety, everybody basically speaks the same language. Everyone may express it differently but on the overall, the concepts remain the same. As I pondered over and reminisced these rules so I can learn to be a safe and responsible gun handler, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between gun safety and what I would coin as ‘tongue safety’. The following gun safety tips are taken from a gun safety pamphlet I got from the Clackamas County Sheriff’s office. I added my comment by each tip.
Know your target and what’s beyond it: Be aware about underestimating the overreaching effects its effects of the words you say. Our words may have been intended for a certain ‘target’, but carelessly uttered our words may end up somewhere else.
Never use drugs or alcohol before or during shooting: So many unintended hurtful things are said and done when under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
Be sure your firearm is safe to shoot: Even in casual conversation, make sure to always use your tongue in a safe manner. It will contribute to its safety when in important conversation.
Always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction: Speak consciously and intentionally; do not aimlessly blabber, which goes along with the next one: Always keep the finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
Use only the correct ammunition for your firearm: Don’t talk about things you know nothing about. Don’t try to impress your audience by trying to sound smarter than you are.
Wear eye and ear protection when appropriate:... especially if the effects of your careless words are unpredictable.
All firearms are always loaded: Whereas not everyone owns a gun, everyone owns a tongue, a tongue that should also be considered as ‘loaded’ with deadly venom that can do as much as kill when let out carelessly.
Come to think of it, much more evil is created in the world by unruly tongues than by unruly guns. Depression, suicide, as well as anxiety and all sorts of other psychological issues often come from the words we hear. Demagogues also promote their evil ideology through wise use of their tongue. May we learn to control it by continually checking our hearts, the abundance from which our mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45.)
AS IN DRILL, SO ALSO IN PRACTICE
I went to get my conceal carry certificate last week. Most of the class was about the legalities of carrying a gun, but some of it was about safe use of the weapon.
The presentation told us about a policeman who died in a shoot out not long ago. When they recovered his body, the dead policeman still had his casings in his hand. The reason for that was that even though he did not have to collect his casings on the scene, he had trained that way. He had trained that way so he responded to his training during the real life situation. The presentator drew a lesson from this. He said that in order to develop good habits we should train in the use of the weapon in the way that we will use it.
This made me think of another story. It reminded me of the story about a soldier who had been seen on the sidelines of the camp speaking to someone. He was reported to the General and charged with treason At his interrogation, the officer in charge asked him, “What do you have to say in your defense?”
"I have the daily habit of taking time for private prayer ...” said the soldier. “... but it is difficult to do in the noisy barracks, so I went outside by the trees. If people heard me talk it was only the sound of my voice pouring my heart out to the Lord.”
“You say you were praying...” said the officer, “... then get on your knees and pray right now. You never needed it more.” The soldier then got on his knees and desperately poured out his heart to God for himself and his fellow soldiers in a manner and desperation he had never done before. He was abruptly interrupted by the officer in charge with the words, “The charge is dismissed. I believe you. You could not have been so good in practice if you would not have been often at drill!”
These two stories tell us that for each of us comes a day of reckoning. A day when we have to make a very important decision that will affect our whole life as well as that of those close to us. On that day, we need to be able to stay away from petty selfish motives and do what is right no matter what the cost. We may not know when that day will come, and sometime we may not even know what that decision is.
The key then to do the right thing on that day, the key of being able to make the right decision when it matters so much, is to discipline ourselves to do the right thing at the everyday drills when it matters little. If we do it right at drill, we’ll do it right at practice and on the day our lives and that of others depend on it. In essence also, the key to doing the right thing and act altruistically at the time it counts much is to have the habit of living that way everyday with our kin, friends, and colleagues. The key to do the right thing in what is great is to the right thing in what is small.
Last week I talked about one type of friend. (click here for last week’s article)..This week I want to talk about another kind of friend: the opponent. In his biography, Abram Poljak “ wrote, “I realized at a young age that enemies do more good than friends.” About his life’s work, he also comments, “The defeats were often more beneficial than the success!” Of course, we want to succeed, but isn’t success the result of what we learn from a succession of defeats? Isn’t defeat then the tool which helps us succeed, that is, if we do not give up?
The same philosophy can be applied to those things, situations, or people who oppose us. As we naturally aim to organize ourselves to arrive at a place where we can sit and enjoy a little ease, destiny often seem to take us out of our comfort zone. In fact, it often feels that life takes pleasure in bringing us to difficult places. I heard once of an experiment scientists tried with lions. A first pride was set in an area of the reservation where everything was supplied for them. Life was easy. A second pride was set in difficult conditions. They had to hunt for their food and contend with other predators for water and territory. After a while, the scientists noticed that the first pride of lions had gotten lazy and unmotivated. Their fur, overall outlook and demeanor was unhealthy while the second set of lions who had to fight for their survival were very active and looked very healthy.
It seems that opposition, contention and difficulty make us stronger. Isn’t this the whole principle of training and even of playing games? In training, we partner with gravity and speed in order to strengthen our muscles. And if life itself was not enough of a puzzle, we play games in which we create complex situations or scenarios that we have to solve, sometimes even adding self imposed speed. All these things contribute to keep our body strong and wits sharp. I heard of a group of nuns in New England who were all over 100 years old, active and intelligent . They agreed to allow themselves to be studied to see what was the reason of their longevity.. At death, their autopsies showed that many had full blown Alzheimer’s, but the disease had never affected them in their lifetime. What did these nuns have in common? They were all teachers and had spent their days learning, doing crosswords and playing games that required them to process and think, sometimes with speed.
The trials of life can be compared to a friendly enemy. As we learn to wisely deal with difficult relationships at home or at work, we strengthen the social skills that make us a more complete person. Every time we have to contend with the ever speedily changing technology, we learn the skills that help us navigate through our ever changing modern world. Whenever we conquer a bad habit, a vice, or a temptation, we strengthen our resolve to live decent lives. In fact, any time we come out of our comfort zone and enter unfamiliar territory in order to do or learn something new, we not only strengthen our humility muscles, but we add to our knowledge bank. In in all those situations, our failures become our special teacher that is, if we do not give up!
One last point. Alongside with strengthening our muscles and adding to our knowledge bank, our conquered failures make us become for others, ‘The friend who’s been ‘there’ before!’ (click here to read previous article.)’
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