The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth!

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At my mother’s memorial service last month I was invited to share a few reflections. One story I told described the time she washed my mouth out with soap. I can still taste that nasty soap! I was probably nine or ten years old and she had heard me say a bad word. I learned my lesson and never again said that word … at least not in her presence.

The last sentence in the paragraph above illustrates another life lesson I learned—always to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In that sentence I could have said only “I learned my lesson and never again said that word.” But that would not have been totally truthful. The real truth is in the words “… at least not in her presence.”

It was through a stern warning of my dear father that I learned that lesson about telling the truth. Daddy was bigger and stronger than I. So I chose not to test the sincerity of his warning because I had no desire to taste the punishment I’d likely receive if I ignored it.

Accordingly, when it was time to fess up regarding matters of importance about which my father was inquiring, I told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It worked. He never had to make me taste his recipe for corporal punishment.

Perhaps that’s why I become so aggravated today with those who don’t adhere to that principle about truth. I see and hear partial truths or half-truths in the lives and words of public figures in the political, secular, and even ecclesiastical worlds.

All too often I’ll hear something said that I know is not completely truthful. It may contain a grain of truth. But if it leaves out critical parts of the story, it falls woefully short of actually being the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

To add insult to injury, when caught, some with that propensity will offer an apology to “anyone who was offended.” But when the apology itself also includes half-truths or omits salient portions of the real truth, disdain and disrespect are further fueled.

That’s particularly true when those who hear the apology don’t know the rest of the story and treat the culprit as a hero, thanking him for his apology, applauding him for his humble spirit. It’s frustrating to see uninformed people misled by someone in a position of trust and authority.

“The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.” Prov. 12:22

I love the Old Irish Blessing: “May those who love us, love us; and those who don’t, may God turn their hearts; and if He doesn’t turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles so we’ll know them by their limping!” The same blessing applies to those who don’t tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! Beware of twisted ankles! And Happy Valentine’s Day!

Important Facts to Remember as You Grow Older

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A Facebook friend posted the following thoughts, probably not original:

  1. Death is the number one killer in the world.
  2. Life is sexually transmitted.
  3. Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.
  4. Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to use the Internet and they won’t bother you for weeks, months, maybe years.
  5. Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in the hospital, dying of nothing.
  6. All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.
  7. In the 60s, people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird, and people take Prozac to make it normal.
  8. Don’t worry about old age; it doesn’t last that long.

Obviously my friend had his tongue at least partially embedded in his cheek. Some of these are more humorous than others. Yet within the humor lies one basic truth. We are mortal, finite human beings. Our human life had a beginning. It will also have an ending.

King David says it like this: “We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.” 1 Chron. 29:15

For Christians, that’s not the end of the story. At the death of his close friend Lazarus, Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies. And whoever who lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26

To some, that’s double talk. How can someone die and yet never die? That’s the mystery of death, solved only by the promise of eternal life through faith in Christ. For when a person dies, he/she takes off his/her body and moves to another existence. In that new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1) that person’s life never ends.

That’s a truth worth living for … a truth worth dying for … a promise to remember as you grow older.

Eight Simple Profound Realities

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1. Everyone in a village decided to pray for rain. On the day of prayer all the people gathered, but only one boy came with an umbrella.
That’s FAITH.

2. When you throw babies in the air, they laugh because they know you will catch them.
That’s TRUST.

3. Every night we go to bed without any assurance of being alive the next morning, but still we set our alarm to wake up.
That’s HOPE.

4. We plan big things for tomorrow in spite of zero knowledge of the future.
That’s CONFIDENCE.

5. We see the world suffering, but still we get married and have children.
That’s LOVE.

6. On an old man’s shirt was written the sentence: “I am not 80 years old; I am sweet 16 with 64 years of experience.”
That’s ATTITUDE.

7. When an election takes place in any organization, secular or ecclesiastical, there are winners and there are losers. The winners have difficulty representing those who voted for the losers, which makes it difficult for the organization to thrive. Yet in most cases it survives.
That’s POLITICAL REALITY.

8. Jesus loves me, this I know! For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong; they are weak but he is strong.
That’s ASSURANCE.

God bless your day!

Half-Truths

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Credit: Max Pixel

One of the greatest challenges of a listener is to discern the truthfulness of what is spoken. That’s not always easy. Some speakers speak half-truths.

Here are a few definitions of half-truth:

  • “A statement that is only partly true, especially one intended to deceive, evade blame, or the like … a statement that fails to divulge the whole truth.” (Dictionary.com)
  • “A statement, especially one intended to deceive, that omits some of the facts necessary for a full description or account.” (Your Dictionary.com)
  • “A deceptive statement that includes some element of truth. The statement might be partly true, the statement may be totally true but only part of the whole truth, or it may use some deceptive element … especially if the intent is to deceive, evade, blame, or misrepresent the truth.” (Wikipedia.com)

Notice the common thread in these definitions? They all include the element of deception. Here are a couple examples of half-truths:

  • “You should not trust Peter with your children. I once saw him smack a child with his open hand.” In this example the statement could be true, but Peter may have slapped the child on the back because he was choking.
  • “I’m a really good driver. In the past thirty years, I’ve gotten only four speeding tickets.” Statement may be true, but is deceptive if speaker started driving a week ago.

Most speakers say at least some things that are true but not all speakers say everything that needs to be said about the topic they are addressing. When that happens, the listener hears only part of what needs to be heard to be fully informed and to make subsequent decisions.

In my life and career I’ve heard many speeches and presentations. If I don’t know anything about the topic being presented, I’m inclined to believe what I hear, especially if the speaker occupies a position of trust and responsibility.

On the other hand, when a speaker presents a topic with which I am quite familiar, it’s much easier to discern when he or she is presenting only half-truths. In that case, I know that the speaker is omitting certain details that, if divulged, would result in the speaker needing to accept the responsibility he or she is trying to evade by speaking half-truths.

Wise Old Testament King Solomon said: “He who speaks the truth declares what is right, but a false witness speaks deceit.” Prov. 12:17 There’s that word “deceit” again—“the action or practice of deceiving someone by concealing or misrepresenting the truth.”

Half-truths. Not good, to say the least.

St. Paul writes: “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed about by the waves and carried around by every wind of teaching and by the clever cunning of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head.” Eph. 4:14-15

That’s a much better way! God bless your day!

The Truth, the Whole Truth and …

Kieschnick GrandnieceBefore beginning today’s Perspectives, I’ll share one important update and one brief reflection:

  1. Update: My prematurely born great grandnieces are progressing quite well. Anna is blessed with good health and Emma (photo above) continues to improve, having had her breathing tube removed for 20 minutes recently. Thank you for your prayers for these two young ladies, their parents Amanda and Jesse and grandparents Doug and Diana.
  2. Reflection: This week marked the 14th anniversary of my initial installation as president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod on September 8, 2001. Three days later our world changed. In some ways it seems like yesterday. In other ways, a lifetime ago!

Now today’s edition. Most Americans know the words that follow the words in the title above. They are part of the oath Americans are required to make prior to taking the witness stand in a court of law. The entire oath is a question that goes something like this: “Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

While legally required to make this oath in court, is it not reasonable to assume that trusted leaders, both public and private, should adhere to the same standard at all times? Even when not called to testify in a court of law? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that were really the case?

In 1998 a 49-year-old national leader denied having a certain kind of improper relations with a 22-year-old woman. That leader told the American public he was telling the truth. But he wasn’t telling the whole truth. While denying that he had had a specific kind of relationship with this woman, it later came to light that he had had other equally improper relations with her.

That man held what is considered the most powerful office in the world. A number of others are now seeking that same office. Each of them has equal responsibility to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Several historical figures have said: “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Abraham Lincoln said: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Jesus in the four gospels said “I tell you the truth” 80 times.

What’s the bottom line? Leaders at all times should be held to the standard of speaking the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That standard is universally applicable to powerful leaders, both secular and sacred, in whom their constituencies place confidence and trust.