Just before the 2012 presidential election, researchers from the University of Notre Dame determined that the less people lie, the better they feel, both mentally and physically. Almost five years later, as we find ourselves listening practically 24/7 to politicians on both sides of the aisle playing fast and loose with the facts, this study, and its implications for individual and societal health, bears revisiting.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, though, we should remember that lying is by no means exclusive to elected officials. According to Anita Kelly, one of the Notre Dame researchers, “Recent evidence indicates that Americans average about 11 lies per week.” In another study, conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, 60 percent of those surveyed said they couldn’t make it through a 10-minute conversation without lying at least once.
Politician or not, we’ve all got our work cut out for us.
For millennia, we’ve been encouraged by prophets and parents alike to cut back on the flimflam. “Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t,’” urged Jesus, a man well known for his clear, concise, and even healing approach to communication.
But that doesn’t mean we’ve been listening.
Either we’ve convinced ourselves that being consistently candid is too high a standard, or that it simply doesn’t matter. The thing is, though, it does. “Honesty is spiritual power,” wrote Mary Baker Eddy in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. “Dishonesty is human weakness, which forfeits divine help.”
Eddy saw honesty as not simply a moral imperative, but an immensely practical one, evidenced in the very same mental and physical improvements described in the Notre Dame study. The main difference is that, while Kelly et al. attributed these improvements to a brain-based effort to be more honest, Eddy saw them as the natural result of an equally natural yielding on our part to what she termed the “divine Mind” or God.
Granted, this sort of mental consent may feel more instinctive to some than to others. But that doesn’t make it any less natural, the standard of being consistently honest any less achievable, or the benefits that inevitably result any less available. All it takes is the willingness – and the determination – to see ourselves as who we really are, even the essential expression of an innately honest Mind.
Tempting as it may be to grouse about the dishonesty of others, the demand is to focus first on being honest ourselves, to be both receptive and responsive to what God is encouraging us to be. It’s also one of the best things we can do to encourage and support a more widespread expression of honesty in every aspect of our lives, including politics.