Little white lies and minor murders

It has been said by experts that we all tell lies, at least now and then.  It has even been said that some lies are of benefit to the person being lied to.  If his wife asks, "Do you like this dress," or her husband asks, "Do I please you?," it might sometimes be inadvisable to tell the truth.  These are called white lies.  There is usually no nefarious intent and no discernible harm. 

Sometimes, however, the intent is less than noble.   My wife might ask, "How did the car door get dented?"  "It was that way when I returned to the parking garage."  Or was it because I got careless in a tight space?  No one will ever know but me.  Is it a consequential lie?  Surely, it's not like murder.

Is it?

Matters become far more serious in high places.  General Michael Flynn and former deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Andrew McCabe recently discovered that, much to their chagrin.  Both are experiencing serious consequences for speaking untruth to power.  Flynn lied to the vice president of the United States and to the FBI.  McCabe lied to the inspector general.  Unsurprisingly, each lie led to more lies.

Why did they do such a foolish thing?  How can otherwise brilliant minds step into quicksand, even when they know the risk?

Perhaps they calculated that telling the truth would cost them more – in the short run – than they were willing to pay.  Perhaps they were overly optimistic about their long-term chances of getting away with it.  Even brilliant minds can miscalculate the risk-to-reward ratio.

But that does not explain it all.  These men were doing more than merely fibbing.  They mistakenly extrapolated their life experiences, thinking that what had always worked for them in the lower levels would also work in the stratosphere of national power.  Since there seems always to be a sports analogy, let's say that they forgot that amateur tactics do not work in the pros.  If a player slacked in practice, it will show on the field.

Likewise, one's life experience teaches him about a thing called honor.  If a person has never valued his personal integrity above material gain, it will show.  Sadly, it is true that doing the honorable thing can set you back.  The lying slouch gets promoted, while the truthful industrious performer languishes on the lower rungs.

But when the day of reckoning comes, the truthful man never has to remember what he said, nor to whom.   When the chips are down, he reflexively musters the courage to do the right thing, even when there is a cost.

In high offices, telling a lie is vastly more serious an offense than cheating on a test in school.  For an FBI official, his integrity is relied upon by courts.  He is entitled to the benefit of the doubt, because he has sworn an oath before God and man to faithfully execute the duties of his office.  Once he is known to have lied, even in a minor matter, that integrity is shattered, usually forever.  This goes for anyone whose government duties involve matters of life and death, matters of national survival, matters of sacred trust.

Of Andrew McCabe, it is said that his potential loss of retirement income is not his most serious problem.  It is said that his legal jeopardy, his exposure to felony charges, the possibility that he might spend years in prison, are his most serious problem.

No.  His most serious problem is the eventual judgment that we must all someday face.

It has been said by experts that we all tell lies, at least now and then.  It has even been said that some lies are of benefit to the person being lied to.  If his wife asks, "Do you like this dress," or her husband asks, "Do I please you?," it might sometimes be inadvisable to tell the truth.  These are called white lies.  There is usually no nefarious intent and no discernible harm. 

Sometimes, however, the intent is less than noble.   My wife might ask, "How did the car door get dented?"  "It was that way when I returned to the parking garage."  Or was it because I got careless in a tight space?  No one will ever know but me.  Is it a consequential lie?  Surely, it's not like murder.

Is it?

Matters become far more serious in high places.  General Michael Flynn and former deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Andrew McCabe recently discovered that, much to their chagrin.  Both are experiencing serious consequences for speaking untruth to power.  Flynn lied to the vice president of the United States and to the FBI.  McCabe lied to the inspector general.  Unsurprisingly, each lie led to more lies.

Why did they do such a foolish thing?  How can otherwise brilliant minds step into quicksand, even when they know the risk?

Perhaps they calculated that telling the truth would cost them more – in the short run – than they were willing to pay.  Perhaps they were overly optimistic about their long-term chances of getting away with it.  Even brilliant minds can miscalculate the risk-to-reward ratio.

But that does not explain it all.  These men were doing more than merely fibbing.  They mistakenly extrapolated their life experiences, thinking that what had always worked for them in the lower levels would also work in the stratosphere of national power.  Since there seems always to be a sports analogy, let's say that they forgot that amateur tactics do not work in the pros.  If a player slacked in practice, it will show on the field.

Likewise, one's life experience teaches him about a thing called honor.  If a person has never valued his personal integrity above material gain, it will show.  Sadly, it is true that doing the honorable thing can set you back.  The lying slouch gets promoted, while the truthful industrious performer languishes on the lower rungs.

But when the day of reckoning comes, the truthful man never has to remember what he said, nor to whom.   When the chips are down, he reflexively musters the courage to do the right thing, even when there is a cost.

In high offices, telling a lie is vastly more serious an offense than cheating on a test in school.  For an FBI official, his integrity is relied upon by courts.  He is entitled to the benefit of the doubt, because he has sworn an oath before God and man to faithfully execute the duties of his office.  Once he is known to have lied, even in a minor matter, that integrity is shattered, usually forever.  This goes for anyone whose government duties involve matters of life and death, matters of national survival, matters of sacred trust.

Of Andrew McCabe, it is said that his potential loss of retirement income is not his most serious problem.  It is said that his legal jeopardy, his exposure to felony charges, the possibility that he might spend years in prison, are his most serious problem.

No.  His most serious problem is the eventual judgment that we must all someday face.