Martha Stewart On Lying

Martha Stewart sold 3,928 shares of ImClone stock December 27, 2001. June 4, 2003, she was indited on nine federal counts. It was alleged she lied to the Grand Jury. One count was later dropped. March 5, 2004, Martha Stewart was convicted on all counts. The verdict in essence said she lied. There has never been a more classic example of the poetic proclamation by Sir Walter Scott: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive.” Our nation has been on a slippery slope since our first president allegedly said, “I cannot tell a lie,” till we had a president who lied under two oaths.

As a child I was told by an old man, “One lie is the pappy of another.” He meant when a person tells a lie they have to tell others to cover it. The imperative is not to tell the first one and thus avoid the entangling web. Many people have become so accustomed to lying they are depicted as having the conscience seared, meaning insensitized. Of Saddam Hussein, Porter Goss, House Intelligence Chair, said, “He is good at denial and deception. I am not sure he even knows what truth is anymore. I think he has been surrounded by yes-me and sycophants.” Such persons can lie and convince themselves it is true and that they have convinced the hearer it is true. They can so lie to themselves they can pass a lie detector test.

Socrates spoke of “…taking good care that in my zeal I do not deceive both myself and you, and like a bee depart, leaving my sting behind.” A House subcommittee estimated that 1 out of every 3 working Americans is hired with educational or career credentials that have been altered. We are suffering from an epidemic of lying. John Gardner, founder of Common Cause notes, “Duplicity and deception, in public and private life, are very substantially greater than they have been in the past.” Lying is a virus that has infected our society.

Under two oaths our former president lied. It became a noticeable thread in the fabric of his life. Even worse several man-on-the-street interviews were filled with people saying in various ways, “It’s no big deal.” If we each had a Pinocchio tendency for our nose to grow every time we told a lie extreme make over would be needed frequently. Or, if we were stricken like the character in the movie “Liar, Liar” who could not lie our social order would be changed. Lying is a big deal. It destroys truth and consequently the ability to trust. The loss of trust results in suspicion, and insecurity, while it impairs relationships. Truth is an absolute.

Where there are no absolutes there is no basis for these imperative traits. “Spin” is a method of twisting a fact to make it appear as something it isn’t. It is the most clever way of lying. Spinology offers graduate degrees. Had George Washington been a graduate of this school of thought he likely would have said, “No, I didn’t chop down the cherry tree” while holding the mental reserve of “I cut it down.” Liars redefine words in their minds while allowing others to consider what is being said in light of accepted understanding of the words. Our society has bought into relativism so fully most persons high school age and above don’t believe there are absolutes. That is, no absolutes of right and wrong. To them truth is relative to time, place, and who is telling it. That is an ideal seed bed in which lies can proliferate.

However, ask a person who professes not to believe in absolutes if they are sure there are no absolutes and they will likely say, “Absolutely.” William Penn, founding father of the state of Pennsylvania, said, “Right is right though all me be against it and wrong is wrong though all be for it.” When truth breaks down in society trust and confidence are lost. Standards of right and wrong are forfeited. Culture becomes cheated of an essential virtue. Truth has such significance that without it as a basic level of societal morality breaks down.

No form of government or personal relationships can survive without it. The disintegration of society is inevitable without truth as a core value. Truth is the eye of reason. Without it we are blind. A lie is a form of theft. In robbing others of the truth we take from them the capacity to make right choices. A lie has to be shrouded unlike naked truth. There are few areas of life in which the Golden Rule is more needed: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” No one likes to be the victim of a lie. Therefore, we should not make others subject to lies. Many seemingly agree with the little boy who said, “A lie is a very present help in the time of trouble.”

In giving legal testimony the witness swears “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Persons have become adept at twisting truth, fabricating facts, and finagling figures to the point purgery is more often overlooked. This oath calls for integrity. The word “integrity” comes from the root integer which means “whole.” In math an integer is a whole number. A person of integrity is a whole person given to honesty and devoid of duplicity. When the court ruled Martha Stewart lied it was saying in that instance she was acting without integrity. She got caught in the entangling web of deception.

In response to Martha’s actions the public has strong opinion. Some want her to get the maximum jail time. Her status as a celebrity makes her more culpable in their thinking. Others want her let off without jail time. This may be explained by the principle of you approve my sin and I will applaud yours. It is an indication of having done what she did and not wanting it considered wrong. In teaching us it doesn’t pay to lie Martha is paying a price greater than her significant wealth. There is a canyon of consequences between a lie and the truth. Be certain to be on the right side.

We need to keep posted on the marque of our minds the ninth Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness….” (Exodus 20:16). This is expanded in Leviticus 19: 11, “You shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie to one another.” Feed your conscience on the fact, “There are six things which the Lord hates,” and one of them is “a lying tongue” (Proverbs 6:16, 17). Resolve, “I will not be a fool, for I will speak the truth…” (II Corinthians 12: 6).