Tuesday, June 7, 2011

To Err is Human, To Lie About It is Stupid

We've all had that moment (or several) where we questioned whether we should tell the truth or not. At the time, we might convince ourselves that telling the lie would be easier, simpler. In reality, nothing can be further from the truth.

Ask Representative Anthony Weiner. Or Arnold Schwarzenegger. Or John Edwards. Or Tiger Woods. Or Newt Gingrich. Or Bill Clinton. The list of public figures caught in lies could go on and on. The news cycle is littered with them. They all falsely believed that their position, their power, their influence or even their untarnished reputation would protect them from the truth becoming public. What they failed to understand is that the truth always, without fail, comes out. It might take fifteen years (just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger), but the truth is always leaked or dug up.

Alexander Pope said, "To err is human; to forgive is divine," and he was right. We are not perfect and make mistakes; it's part of human nature. It is also part of our nature to forgive, but forgiveness must be earned. In order for us to forgive another, we must believe that they are worthy of our forgiveness. What is the best way to ensure worthiness? Admit your mistake. Claim responsibility for your actions. And most importantly, do not lie or be deceptive.

Even if you admit fault later, it may be too late to save your credibility or reputation. The revelation of the lie corrupts and undermines future words and actions. If Weiner had claimed responsibility when first asked about that Twitter photo and just admitted sending that inappropriate image, he might have survived the threat of resignation. Now, it seems like a forgone conclusion.

Oh,when we will learn that what seems easier in the short-term often costs us more in the long-term? Following mistakes, we should be as transparent as this flower in daylight. We must speak the truth early and often, and accept the consequences as they come knowing they would have been worse or more costly when perceived as a liar.


  1. there are some occasions where forgiveness is a gift. a personal example is matts dad. he has never asked my forgiveness. i don't anticipate it ever happening either. and even though it has taken me two years to get to the point where i am not angry (meaning i have not yet forgiven him, but am in the process) i still need to let it go, and forgive him. but that doesn't mean he is welcome in our lives.

    while i do agree that the person should ask for it, there are times and situations where if we don't forgive it hurts us and we carry it with us. and i guess it's even a gift to myself to forgive him. i won't have to carry that weight around once it actually happens.

  2. Well said, my friend. These are important lessons for personal life as well as for business.

  3. TJ, I completely agree. Forgiving others is the gift we give ourselves. While it indirectly benefits the person in the wrong, it really alleviates for the wronged person the weight of anger, sadness, and/or resentfulness on our spirit.