In season 2, episode 18 of Star Trek: Voyager, an immortal being named Q arrives. This particular Q has been the bane of many Starfleet officers in the recent series for his antagonistic behavior towards humanity. In this episode, he is trying to convince Captain Janeway to not give asylum to another member of the Q continuum. Janeway proposes a deal to Q, who responds:
Q: How would you know if I intended to keep my word?
Janeway: Based on my research, you have been many things. A rude, interfering, inconsiderate, sadistic...
Q: You’ve made your point.
Janeway: ...pest! An, oh, yes...you introduced us to the Borg-- thank you very much-- but one thing you have never been is a liar.
Q: I think you’ve uncovered my one redeeming virtue.
In my own life, I’d never realized how important the truth is to me until suddenly I was confronted by many lies. Throughout my relationship with my now-ex-husband there were many times that he neglected to tell me the full story about something. In our Catholic upbringing, this would be considered a sin of omission: failing to take the honorable path when one is clear on what that duty is. However, with our separation, my ex-husband’s behavior switched to sins of commission: knowing that an act is wrong but doing it anyway. In this case, he began intentionally telling me half-truths and lies (and felt completely justified in doing so). Suddenly I realized how vitally important honesty is to a relationship and how much I had valued his previous honesty now that it was gone. My respect for my ex-husband and my desire to maintain a friendship with him suddenly dissolved because I want and need my friends to be honest with me.
Personally speaking, I don’t lie. I’m not able to do it. Anyone who knows me well enough will even be able to tell clearly when I’m only telling half the story by my body language and my energy. I’ve been rightfully described on many occasions of being honest to a fault: if you don’t want to know the truth, then don’t ask me a question. I will gently tell you that yes, that dress does make your butt look large. I would never volunteer that kind of information to anyone but my closest friends without being asked, though!
Within my practice, this truth-telling is also vitally important to me. I have a great sense of honor in keeping my word. I believe confidentiality as vital to my relationships with my clients. I’ve noted in many places that the only reasons I will break confidentiality is if I am ordered to by a court of law or if there is a high risk to someone involved (such as calling Child Protective Services about an abused child). Recently, I had to break client confidentiality for just such a reason: the client was a danger to hirself* and/or others. My body was literally shaking when I spoke with the person to whom I referred the client and hir major issues. I was fighting back tears through it all, and afterward, I did cry. There was absolutely no question to me that I was doing the right thing in breaking confidentiality to get this person the help ze needs in a life-threatening situation. However, it was still devastating to me personally to have to break the confidentiality that person had placed in me. My word matters to me, and I recognize clearly that a person who doesn’t honor hir word is not trustworthy. I hope one day that the client will be able to understand why I did what I did for hir. For now, I know that getting hir help is far more important than me keeping hir secrets.
Even as large parts of our society are moving away from a religious based moral guidance system, lying remains a despicable trait in our society with good reasons. False promises fall into this category of lies. Balthasar Gracian has written, “A single lie destroys a whole reputation of integrity.” Lies are that powerful. A person who tells the truth is seen as having a very redeeming quality and in turn is trustworthy as a person. This is the standard to which I hold myself.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC