We’ve talked at length about integrity, about trust, and about strong moral character. We speak about these things because they are critical to building lasting and meaningful connections, but also because they are traits that the world values and finds desirable, admirable, and praiseworthy, and are sought out at the highest levels of our corporate culture.
As you know, I spend a lot of time reading and learning about how to be a better leader, how to build wildly successful teams, and how to create a culture for people to not only do their best work but to be their best selves. By no means have I perfected this, and I am blessed to have some wonderful people in my life that I get to learn from and learn with.
One thing that the learned from them is that there is a difference between telling the truth and ensuring that the other person has heard the truth. Let me restate and rephrase, because this is critical. There is a difference between you technically telling the truth, saying all true statements, and making sure that the other person fully understands the situation.
In the former situation, while you are being technically and objectively truthful, your listener is misled into believing something false. While you can legally claim that you haven’t told a lie, morally you haven’t told the truth. You may get away with this behavior for some time, and may even delude yourself into believing that you are an honest and truthful person, but those around you will eventually figure it out and the trust and relationship will begin to erode.
There is a big difference between telling the truth and not telling a lie.
We live in a world where character matters. Truthfulness, integrity, and honesty are traits that the world values highly yet finds in short supply. They are traits that we crave, that we long for, that we idealize in movies, books, and stories. And yet they are largely missing from our regular lives. Why is that? Why the gap?
To say that the world is full of intentionally dishonest people is not only disheartening and over simplifying, it is also incorrect and leads to very isolating and defeatist responses. No, I don’t believe that the world is full of intentionally dishonest people. Rather, I believe the world has become desensitized to dishonesty, and has allowed its moral compass to degrade to the point where half truths are often considered good enough, and the hard work, discipline, and focus required to live a morally upstanding life are deemed not worth it. Some have even been ridiculed and persecuted for pursuing those ideals.
My prayer for you is that you would both grow to be men of integrity, whose word is valued and trusted, and are known as honest, truthful, and trustworthy men. The road won’t be easy, and there will be many times where no one would ever find out if you withheld a small portion of the truth. But you would know. And just as “the safest road to hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts” (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters), so too will those small allowances of half truths slowly lead you down the road leading not to great character, but rather to deception, dishonesty, and deceit. That’s not a road you want to be on, no matter how scenic and easy it may seem.
I pray that you become men of character that not only tell the truth but ensure that your listeners hear the truth. I love you boys.