I've been thinking about how easily we discredit ourselves when we exaggerate the truth. Perhaps the reason that this has been on my mind is because we're nearing the end of the a political campaign season and we've all heard our share of pseudo-truths from the candidates. When confronted, their response is,
- "I never said that."
- "You misunderstood me."
- "What I meant was . . ."
- "I misspoke."
Let me be the first to confess that I have done this myself.
- "I've been waiting on hold for 30 minutes!" (Five minutes just seems like half an hour.)
- "I was up to all night working on that." (I stayed up until 1:00 A.M. but that's still waaay past my normal bedtime.)
- "It took me all morning to mow the yard." (OK, I've perfected my mowing to the point where I can do the yard in less than an hour but shouldn't I get some credit for my efficiency?)
I sometimes think that we don't give others enough credit for being able to discern whether or not what we're saying is true. Credibility doesn't require a burden of proof. I'm not automatically credible just because you can't prove that I'm wrong or that you are not a first-hand witness who can contradict me. There are plenty of times that I might know that someone is lying even though I couldn't present the evidence in a courtroom that might be required to prove it. Every instance of this erodes the credibility of the speaker.
I'm not advocating that we become legalistic about every word that we utter but I sometimes wonder if we have become so desensitized to this that we really don't care about truth anymore, that it doesn't even matter.
What do you think?