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March 21, 2013

Question:  Aside from the obvious, what lessons are to be learned from the Lance Armstrong saga?

I suggest that it is precisely the obvious that we should consider.  The obvious was not apparent to Lance Armstrong. He no doubt felt justified because the cycling world is rife with doping, but many wrongs never can make a right. Let’s consider lying because the serious consequences of lying are poorly understood.  I think it’s true to say that if no one lied, crime would be practically eliminated, or at least greatly reduced. Why? For the simple reason that if truth-telling were universal, every criminal would own up to crime. It was not until he was faced with undeniable evidence that Armstrong owned up, and even then, his apology did not feel whole and entire.  

Moral theology has traditionally attempted to categorize virtues and vices, the attributes to cultivate and the habits to avoid. While the Bahá’í sacred writings contain no such catalogue, truth-telling is definitely high on the list of virtues and values. Here is the positive affirmation of truthfulness from the writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), the son and successor of the Prophet-Founder, Bahá’u’lláh, (1817-1892), and the appointed interpreter of his teachings: “Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues. Without truthfulness progress and success, in all the worlds of God, are impossible for any soul. When this holy attribute is established in man, all the divine qualities will also be acquired.” 

Now here is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s negative judgement of lying: “Consider that the worst of qualities and most odious of attributes, which is the foundation of all evil, is lying. No worse or more blameworthy quality than this can be imagined to exist; it is the destroyer of all human perfections, and the cause of innumerable vices.”

These statements bear serious reflection. They have much to do with open-handedness and “transparency,” today’s favourite buzz word that indicates that the lack of truth-telling and the tangled web it weaves are pervasive today, not just in politics with its hidden agendas, but in all human affairs. How can clarity, progress and justice ever be established without truthfulness?

Despite repeated disappointments, we still and should expect politicians, clerics and athletes to be honest—no more but no less honest than everyone else.  
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen March 21, 2013
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