Trust and Truthfulness

I’m thinking about what (or who) we put our trust in, and why…and is NOT believing the truth the same thing as believing a lie?

Let’s suppose that every morning I give you an accurate description of the day’s weather, and you choose to ignore it.  This morning, for instance, I tell you that it’s 8 below zero with a brisk wind, and a foot of snow on the ground.  You dress for a day at the beach. That may not be a sin, but it is certainly foolish, isn’t it?  Of course, you may have reasons to doubt my knowledge or my sincerity.  But if I accurately report the weather for a week, will you begin to pay more attention? And act accordingly?  If not, how long will it be before you believe me?

Now let’s suppose the opposite:  I’ve told you the exact opposite of a true weather forecast every day, and every day you’ve believed me and dressed accordingly.  On cold days you’ve shivered and gotten sick, on rainy days you’ve been soaked, and on hot days you’ve come home drenched in sweat.   It’s obvious that whether you ignore truth or believe a lie, you will suffer consequences.  

This has nothing to do with the weather, actually– sunshine, snow storm or torrents of rain.  It’s also not a matter of my telling you about good weather versus bad.  I may not like the conditions outside any more than you do.  No, the question is one of trust.  Trust implies a relationship in time:  based on your past experience, you believe me right now about something which is, and/or which will be in the future.  If I am trustworthy, doesn’t that mean that I have been truthful?  Why would you trust me if I had lied about the weather every day?

This seems self-evident.  But there are people who every day put their trust in people and things which are demonstrably not truthful.  Why do they do that?  Why do women stay with men who abuse them?  Why do people read horoscopes or call fortune tellers and psychics?  Why do scientists postulate against the available evidence?  Why do people vote for public officials who have demonstrated their insincerity, mendacity or unfaithfulness to vows?  (What? Can’t think of any examples?) If the sign says “Thin ice,” what is it in human nature that wants to skate on it anyway?

Or ask the opposite question:  why do so many people tend to ignore advice and information from people who both love them and have proven themselves trustworthy?  If you know that your mother has never lied to you, and she wants you to dress warmly, what mechanism is it that prompts you to go out with no coat?  (This is the mother’s perennial question.  I fear there IS no answer.)

If you are warned, by sign and book and caring counsel, that what you are doing is dangerous…why do you persist in walking out on the ice?  If it is demonstrated again and again that the leader you support is untrustworthy and in fact does not have your best interests at heart…why are you still following?   And at what point does your foolishness become sin?  At what point does a nation’s folly put it beyond hope?

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way;walk in it.  (Isaiah 30:21  NIV)

[to be continued, next week…]

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