Half-Truths

Lie Note Directory Marking Arrow Truth Direction

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!

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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.