Decay causes people to lose heart—moral decay, spiritual decay, and, even, decaying matter in the natural world. We have a natural desire for beauty. On Instagram, people post pictures of themselves at their best. Or, they share pictures of incredible scenery and adorable puppies or kittens. Decay undermines beauty.
A different kind of decay pervades our twenty-first-century culture. Several years ago, a political operative claimed “alternative facts” provided evidence in a dispute about reality. Her statement and adherence to “alternative facts” points to the decay of integrity. Saying, “The Sky is blue,” can no longer stand unrefuted if it contradicts someone’s opinion.
When I was a child, my father always told me that integrity is “doing the right thing even when no one is looking.” This concept of integrity seems straightforward enough, but it hangs on a universal understanding of “the right thing.” For a parent teaching a child ethics, “the right thing” is easy to understand. Tell the truth. Don’t steal. Don’t hit or bite people. For adults, the definition can become more complicated, especially when telling the truth or doing the right thing is difficult.
When people spew lies so often, we can become numb to dishonesty. Lying becomes commonplace. When it does, a lack of truth pervades the mundane. Lying gets easier and easier.
In this new year, God’s call to honesty must not be unfamiliar. Through scripture and the Christian tradition, truth, beauty, goodness, and righteousness remain central to a life in faith. Calling ourselves ‘Christian’ comes with a declaration to live lives of integrity.
In the face of a culture of deceit and decay, truth is one of the greatest tools available to us. Truth-telling means having something on which to stand. No one can repudiate facts without doubling down on lies. As we move into 2021, we must not participate in the sin of spreading misinformation. Tell the truth in love and God will be with you.