Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Best Policy

In matters of more than trivial import, honesty is the best policy. We all learn the lesson as children, but then we seem to allow the lines to blur as we grow up. This post will be about two liars, Bruce Pearl and Jim Tressel, but their stories universally illustrate the point.

There’s the four-way test of Rotary, which says in essence truth (honesty) must be fair and beneficial, and help to build relationships. Sometimes the truth is very, very ugly, destroys relationships, and is not “fair” by any definition. Perhaps that’s why Rotary never appealed to me.

There’s the famous Jack Nicholson line from “A Few Good Men”, repeated so many times now that it’s nearly iconic: “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth.”

At some point in our maturation process, we begin to learn why the oath we take before testifying in court is to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Half-truths or partial truths are the stock-in-trade of outfits like Fox News. They can really bend a story.

Bruce Pearl is the former men’s basketball coach at Tennessee. He was fired this week for lying. He held a backyard cook-out some months ago and invited some high school athletes; this is a recruiting violation; he lied about it; he got fired. Had he admitted doing it, said he was sorry and would never do it again, he’d still be at Tennessee. But he’ll coach Division One hoops again, soon. He won, and he filled the seats in the auditorium, and that’s what it’s about – not honesty.

Jim Tressel is the disgraced Ohio State football coach who lied and said he didn’t know anything about his players selling their memorabilia and pocketing the money. It’s one of those “if he didn’t know, he should have” things, according to some. Long story short, I don’t think he told the whole truth, so he got punished.

All of us, I think, tell the un-truth, or at least not the whole truth, more often than we like to admit. And most of us seem to learn under what circumstances it’s important to be completely honest and tell the whole truth.

Some of us never learn.

1 comment:

  1. >> He won, and he filled the seats in the auditorium, and that’s what it’s about – not honesty. <<

    Yes, it would be better if he could fill the seats and be as upright as Caesar's wife. However, laments like this don't move me too much any more; especially with the hyper-ventialting that goes on with professional sports. Sometimes I think that the sports industry is so large these days in part because of the scandals and bad behavior and outrageous salaries, etc., etc.

    And as far as telling the truth, in personal relationships one must be delicate with the bludgeon that is "the whole truth". As you said, "most of us seem to learn under what circumstances it's important". Our entire lives are spent observing the effects "the whole truth" has on our relationships. This famouse Geico ad illustrates that even those famous for honesty can get hammered with that reality.

    The Town Crank