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Sunday, November 14, 2010

THE TRUTH DOES NOT ALWAYS SET YOU FREE

My entire adult life has been spent trying to do what is right for all the people I've come in contact with, be it my customers who depend on me for advice, employees who wanted a comfortable and meaningful workplace, and constituents in the many nonprofit groups I have volunteered in over the years. You may not agree with my tactics now and then (I am most definitely not a politician) but I have always tried to be honest with the people I have come in contact with. You may not like what I have to say, but you know precisely where I stand on an issue. Throughout all of this, I have learned that telling the truth has cost me more than one friend over the years, but it is important to me personally to be able to look at myself in the mirror without blushing. As someone who has had to say "the Emperor has no clothes" on more than one occasion, I realize it requires some rather thick skin. Maybe this is why honesty is no longer in vogue anymore as it is easier and less painful to be so. It is a sad sign of our society when political correctness is more coveted than truth.
It doesn't seem like it was too long ago when things were more black and white, that we had a clear idea of what was right and what was wrong. Now it seems we have too many shades of gray whereby common sense is no longer common, that right is wrong and wrong is right. This is resulting in a new psychosis of uncertainty and frustration. For example, my generation was brought up to believe that if you worked hard and kept your nose clean, everything would work out for you, that your company would look out for you, and you would be able to lead a comfortable existence, both personally and professionally. As we now know, this is certainly not the case and there are now long lines at the unemployment offices consisting of people who are in a state of shock. These are people who are worn out and no longer understand the world around them; a psychosis of uncertainty that is permeating our society.
Truth requires courage, not political correctness. Telling the truth and doing what is fair and honorable is actually more difficult to do, which is why people tend to avoid it, and why it should be cherished. It also says a lot about our egos. Most people will go to extremes to avoid confessing "I screwed up." I have more respect for a person who admits a mistake and tries to correct it than someone who flaunts their contempt for you by lying. Yet our society for some reason accepts and prizes deceit over honesty. It's kind of like saying, "Ha Ha Ha, see, he got away with it."
Over the years I have learned telling the truth is better than being caught in a lie, and much less painful. The person who fabricates a lie must be prepared to defend it. For example, if a salesman in a company knowingly quotes an erroneous price or terms for delivery, and the customer discovers the salesman was deliberately misleading him, in all likelihood the company will lose not just the sale, but the customer as well. In contrast, an honest salesman that stands behind his product will have less trouble. Much less.
Discovering the truth is not always easy either. There are indeed two sides to every story, maybe more, which is why all sides should be given the opportunity to present their perspective. Quite often, it is nothing more than a misunderstanding that can be resolved amicably. Sometimes a third party judgment is required. Nonetheless, both sides must be allowed to have their day in court; any discrimination should be construed as intolerable. I have seen such discrimination on more than one occasion, and it appears to be becoming more pervasive due to political reasons. Consequently people are finding it more expeditious to say nothing instead of standing up for their beliefs. Not being allowed to tell one's story is a form of intimidation and should not be tolerated.
My business requires me to tell the truth. I have to tell clients exactly what I see with no sugarcoating. Whereas some people like to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic (political correctness), I simply point out there is a hole in the side of the ship that we either need to repair or prepare to abandon ship.
I am reminded of the Hans Christian Anderson tale, whereby...
But among the crowds a little child suddenly gasped out, "But he hasn't got anything on." And the people began to whisper to one another what the child had said. "He hasn't got anything on. There's a little child saying he hasn't got anything on." Till everyone was saying, "But he hasn't got anything on." The Emperor himself had the uncomfortable feeling that what they were whispering was only too true. "But I will have to go through with the procession," he said to himself. So he drew himself up and walked boldly on holding his head higher than before, and the courtiers held on to the train that wasn't there at all.
Telling the truth isn't for the faint of heart. It won't make you popular, but at least you will be able to sleep soundly at night.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com
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