How to Develop a Comfortable Approach to Being Appropriately Selfish

You have spent much of your life taking care of others. So when do you get around to taking care of yourself?

Maybe you are the

  • “Giving Tree” parent who burns out looking after the family day in and day out and your health goes to hell in a hand basket.
  • Manager who has difficulty saying “no” to a highly demanding boss. As a result you do the job of several people.
  • Leader who has difficulty delegating and does the work that reports should be doing themselves

So, at the end of your rope, you want things to change.

However, you also believe “servant leadership”.

Where do you find balance between self and other care? Here are some scripts you might find helpful.

“ I am not a doormat”

People pleasers are often exploited.

If you fall into that category, have you ever stopped to think that you may be reinforcing this behavior? What about saying, “I am not a doormat” and then shut the door to unreasonable requests? You might be surprised to see that your levels of resentment, anger, and frustration with the “users” in life goes way down. That’s because you finally took care of yourself.

The next message is for those who have become overly dependent on your help.

 “You need to take care of yourself”

While it is a good thing to take care of others, that caring should not be at the expense of your own health and relationships. The boundary you set here does not have to be all or nothing. Maybe a reduction of care for the other by 20% would be in order. A person I know, who feels that her role in life is to fix everyone who comes to her with a broken situation, now asks herself, “Do I want a friend or a caseload?”

Now, try this next boundary-setting script.

 Which part of no don’t you understand?”

The world is full of users who spit us out if we set boundaries with them by refusing to be available 24/7.

A good solid no, delivered firmly and repeatedly, comes as a shock to them. When we decline their requests they may squawk and wine and declare us public enemy #1. However, it is important for us to stand our ground.

If it requires saying no to your boss you might want to do it carefully. See my article “How to Succeed in Saying No To Your Boss”

Take the above steps and you will have found a comfortable way of being selfish.


What is your story about setting limits with others?

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Be Here Now

Some time ago we had supper with a delightful couple. Our friend was going through a particularly difficult time in his life at that time. After the meeting I commented to Kris “I feel such compassion for Steve” To which Kris replied, “His name is not Steve. It’s Joe!”

Where was my mind when I had dinner that night with Joe? I was busted for not being fully present on our dinner date.

We live in a hyperkinetic and multi-tasking milieu and there is no more important advice that we can give or receive than


We all have experienced some or all of the following. We are

On a conference call checking our e-mail while others talk

Listening to our partner with half an ear and thinking of several projects at the same time

Continually distracted by intrusive thoughts

Totally or partially disconnected from our feelings

And the result is

Everyone knows we are not fully listening

We miss important pieces of information

We live with unnecessarily high levels of stress

We lower our intellectual and emotional horsepower

And we call Joe, Steve.

In fact, we live up (or down) to the spirit of the ditty

There was a man my grandfather knew

Who had so many things he wanted to do

That whenever he thought it was time to begin

He couldn’t because of the state he was in.

So what is the answer?

First, one does not have to become a spiritual expert with high levels of mindfulness that can be sustained for long periods. That takes years of meditation practice. We can start with small steps now.

Secondthere is no second. In fact, there is no excuse for us not developing the clarity of thinking, focused listening, and inner tranquility for short periods of time that help us be more effective leaders and empathic partners.

Here are some possible rudimentary steps we can take.

1.     Take time out from electronic devices in meetings and in general. I know an executive who receives 300-400 email a day and has learned so to prioritize that he only responds to 10 a day. Such prioritizing is not easy but is possible.

2.    When you listen to people, hit the pause button in our minds. Don’t try and formulate an answer and ask yourself not just “What is this person saying?” but also “How do they feel about it?” and “Why is it important to them?”

3.     Recognize that there will still be more work to do after your fourteen-hour day. So set limits on yourself and go home and have supper with your family, turn off your Blackberry, and focus fully on the people most important to your life.

4.    Get a life apart from your work. The list of possibilities is endless but do something where you make a contribution and above all have fun.

Have you ever noticed the gaps between musical notes. If these spaces were not there one would have noise. Reduce the noise in your life by finding silent spaces. And post a notice in your office “Be here now”.


What small steps have you taken to “Be here now”?

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When The Battle is with Yourself

Every once in a while we find ourselves at war (or at least having a tiff) with ourselves.

I had one of those “at odds with the self” dreams some time ago. In the dream I was in a boxing ring with myself (yes you can do that sort of stuff in dreams). The two parts of the self were bashing away at each other and both our faces became swollen, bleeding, and disfigured. It was one of those slugfests where there was no winner but just a lot of damage.

Upon waking my first conscious question was “Now what was that all about?” Here was the interpretation that bubbled into my mind after some reflection.

I had been very critical with myself in the previous few days. I won’t bore you with details but that internal conflict bled into my dreams. The typical result of such internal battles is never very pretty. A lot of black eyes ensue.

So in the middle of meditation the next day, while trying to calm my mind that was behaving like a barrel full of hyperactive monkeys, I had this insight. Here goes.

In order to both understand and calm our inner battles, which can occur for a multitude of reasons, we need to experience that

it is better to be:

1.   Sad Rather Than Mad

Getting to our core emotional state is essential to insight. I had recently experienced a great loss (our beloved dog died of cancer). As a typical male, my default emotion was a low-grade anger. So it is quite understandable that I would have the boxing match dream. What I really needed to do was to continue to walk into my experience of sadness. This is by far a more difficult emotion than anger to process.

Question: What is your underlying emotion when at war with yourself?

2.   Aware Rather Than Unaware 

While we may sleepwalk our way through our waking state or through life in general our dreams do not let us off the hook. Finding ways to be present with our real emotions that are connected to our recent history (sometimes past) of trauma is the path to fully living our lives. The key to understanding is often found when we unlock the code in our dreams.

Question: What are your dreams telling you about your real conflict?

3.   Accepting Rather Than Resisting

The flame of our internal battle is often fanned when we do not accept what is or the reality of our circumstances. When we try to change what can’t be changed, all we do is hurt ourselves. Resistance always causes us to stay at a superficial level and not go deeper. Instead of letting us experience our emotions more fully we end up medicating ourselves with substances like alcohol to food or frenetic activity and/or twisting our real emotion into something more familiar and seemingly easier to handle.

Question: What will it take for you to stop resisting your unfortunate circumstances and come to a place of acceptance?

The war with the self is often reflected in dreams. It also comes out when we project our conflict onto others. We do this by becoming overly critical of the flaws (always easy to find) in others.

In the end we are the ones who negotiate our own peace treaty by

§      Honestly accepting what is

§      Being compassionate about our tendency to twist our emotions

§      Choosing not to dump our emotions on others

§      Desiring to live our lives as awake and aware as we possible can.

Then maybe the two parties boxing in the dream will be dancing with each other tomorrow night when we are asleep. It will be a sign that we are finally at peace with ourselves. For now.

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Five Behaviors of a Visionary Leader

You can learn the ways of a visionary leader.

Here’s how.

I have known quite a number of remarkable futurists in my decades of consulting practice. Each took their organization to new levels of excellence and profitability. However, one stands out above all the others. I recently asked him “Do You See Blue Sky or Dark Clouds in your industry?” His business was going through a bit of a slump but he had an irrepressible sense for greater opportunities in the future.

o What made this leader stand out from his peers in the same organization/industry?

o Why was he like the optimistic child who viewed a pile of manure and started digging for the pony?

The thing about this leader is that he saw both the obstacles as well as new possibilities for the future.

What five behaviors made him such a remarkable visionary?

He had a

1.  Global Business Perspective

The problem with many a successful business is that the leadership can become internally focused. What worked in the past is assumed to be the predictor for future success. However, this leader was able to appreciate and integrate multiple socio political and global factors like the growing scarcity of water, nutrition needs of a greatly expanding and mobile world population, advances in technology like that of artificial intelligence, and the changing nature of the workforce that included millennials.  He truly saw the bigger picture.

2.  Realist/Optimist Disposition

Futurists are not clueless or careless dreamers. They can look at the facts about their organization, good and bad, and press on to new business frontiers. That makes them realists. However, what makes them stand out from the pack is that they see viable business opportunities where others see obstacles. They ask questions like, “How can we leverage the downturn in the economy to our advantage?” And their native optimism spurs them on in the face of opposition.

The motto of such a leader could well be

Pensaron que nos habían enterrado, pero no sabían que éramos semillas They thought we were buried, but they did not know we were seeds

3.  Openness to Change 

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with change. We may hear the drum beat “change or die”.  We resist the imperative to alter our ways for a multitude of reasons. Our resistance may be conscious or unconscious, based on a fear of going out of our comfort zone, spurred by a tendency to rest on the laurels of our success, or a deep longing for the “good old days”. But in the end, the visionary leader has a compelling reason to lead change. And come hell or high water, change happens.

4.  Wide Network With External Thought-Leaders

Many senior leaders confine their network to their own organization. However visionaries have the opportunity to meet with thought-leaders beyond their own company and discipline. In so doing they enjoy the fruits of cross-fertilization.  All this exposure to a wider circle enriches their capacity to innovate and expose their organization to new ideas.

5.  Deep Interest in the Arts and History

 I once taught a Humanities course in a Business Management degree program. One course assignment was for the students to visit a museum, art galley, cultural event from their ethnic group, or read a biography of some important historical figure (other than in business). The assignment was then to relate this experience to their business context. The surprise was that many of them had confined their whole life experience to the business world.

Great visionary leaders read widely, travel extensively, have broad experience in the arts, and are insatiably curious about the world around them. They then import this experience to their business experience that becomes richer as a result. All work and no play truly makes “Jack a dull boy”. The leader I work with has all this intellectual and cultural breadth and it continually informs his work experience.

I realize that this article is based the anecdotal evidence of one leader who embodied all these behaviors. However,

My Question

What behavioral markers have you observed in true visionaries?

What research (articles) do you have to support your observations?

Please share your perspective.

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Trust Matters


Cedric Johnson, Ph.D and Kristine MacKain, Ph.D

We all know that when trust is broken, it hurts.

Trust is the bedrock of every relationship both political and personal. Without trust, we are like a boat, left to drift with no anchor. From infancy to adulthood, trust is the cornerstone of healthy relationships,  personal well-being, and civil society.

Though we all know trust is important, why does trust matter?

In infancy, the answer is obvious. Without trust, an infant can literally perish.  When, as children, we cannot trust our parents, we grow up coming to believe that we can’t depend on anyone else either. Later as adults, we may have very low expectations of others and be hesitant to ask for help. This lack of trust in others can be isolating and may affect our personal well-being and our ability to establish bonds with others.

Trust is an important factor in developing bonds with each other and is determined by how well we meet our obligations (implicit or explicit) to each other. Our bonds can be strong or tenuous, healthy or not, depending upon how well these obligations are met, be they in friendships, marriages, and/or work.

In adult life trust is broken when mutual obligations are violated. For example:

A partner betrays the other through lying or infidelity
A boss does not deliver on the promise of a promotion

A politician lies to us
A friend reveals information about us that was confidential
A colleague bad-mouths a peer to their boss in an attempt to gain advantage

Recently, an organization conducted a survey among its senior executives, asking them what leadership competencies they most highly valued. Interestingly, trust came out on top. Trust was critical because trustworthy individuals behave in ways that optimize organizational effectiveness. Specifically, trustworthy individuals:

Behave ethically and honestly at work
Consistently follow through on commitments
Establish a climate of mutual respect
Maintain the confidentiality of restricted information

In the absence of trustworthy behaviors, such as those noted above, an organization (or any relationship, in fact) can eventually descend into chaos.

Responding to Broken Trust

When trust is violated, we typically respond with strong emotions. Below, are some typical responses:


Anger is a natural response to betrayal. Anger functions as a defense mechanism that keeps the perpetrator (individual or organization) at arms length. Anger is useful in that it can protect us from further hurt and give us time to regroup while we develop a more productive response. However, anger also has a downside in that it can spill over, negatively impacting everyone in our life. Anger is a tricky emotion and one that needs to be managed carefully. Unlike sadness or crying, which can be cathartic and restore one’s emotional equilibrium, anger often produces more anger, and anger can be addictive.

Emotional Freeze

Another response to broken trust is to respond by shutting down our emotions. People often describe this as feeling numb. Though this response may be useful in protecting us in the short-term, eventually it can backfire because when we shut down, we also tend to shut out our significant others, potentially damaging our relationship with them and depriving us of the help they can provide.


Disappointment, sadness, and confusion are typical responses to a violation of trust and are important responses in validating our experience of betrayal. However, sustaining feelings of hurt over the long-term can result in seeing ourselves as a “victim”. Embracing a victim identity may attract support and validation from others but eventually it disempowers us by depriving us of more productive responses.

Recovering From Broken Trust

As discussed, our initial responses to broken trust are anger, hurt, and the numbing of our emotions. What typically happens next is we get stuck in these emotions and we can’t let them go, resulting in emotional paralysis.

How do we disengage from these emotions and move on?

First, Find a safe context or person who can contain, validate, and normalize our emotional responses to being betrayed.

Second, learn to detach from our feelings so that we can begin to talk about the experience without getting overwhelmed and derailed by our emotions.

Third, explore new coping strategies that allow us to change our orientation to the painful experience. For example, change the way we think about the experience; distract and reorient ourselves by engaging in physical activity, which also helps to relieve the stress; and talk with others about their best practices in moving on from the pain of broken trust.

Finally, turn the negative emotions into productive action. Ask yourself: “What do I need to do to turn this situation into a growth opportunity or a productive outcome?” Then begin to visualize the details of that productive outcome.

We may never be the same again after the severance of trust but we have a choice: we can grow and produce a satisfying outcome or we can regress to unproductive states such as feeling emotionally paralyzed or perpetually angry.

There are countless stories of people who have grown through pain. Let yours be one of them.

(Please see the links below on this blog site for three other resources for recovery)




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Why Character Matters in Our Leaders

 Character is destiny

-Heraclitus, 2500 years ago:

When we admire leaders as having “good character”, we are referring to their

essential moral nature as it is typically expressed through their personality or

behavior. In this section, we will also use this term to refer to the consistency

with which one expresses those good qualities; that is, in private as well as in

public, in good times as well as under duress.

Character has been jokingly defined as how we behave when no one is

watching. What makes this so funny is how well it captures human nature:

Individuals may behave according to their highest moral aspirations when

trying to impress others, as when they are representing their organization

in a public forum. But, put these individuals in a tempting situation where,

for example, they could derive financial benefits illegally and likely not

get caught, these same folks might find their high moral standards slipping

away. Similarly a leader, who never loses self-control when interacting with

colleagues at the office, may, in the privacy of his home, abuse his wife and children.

Such a person is often referred to as a “Street angel, home devil”. There has to be 

consistency between one’s public and private face for the judgement of 

good character to be made.

A hallmark of people with distinguished character is that they stick to their

principles, even when it may involve making large sacrifices. They inspire us

because they show us that it is possible to conduct our own lives according to

our most valued principles and ideals.

What are the specific values that distinguish leaders of character from others?

In his work on positive psychology, Martin Seligman (2002) has identified

six character traits he found to be universal and valued in their own right:

Courage (standing by convictions in the face of great opposition, staying

the course in the face of overwhelming odds)

Wisdom and knowledge (curiosity, love of learning, originality, social


Justice (teamwork, fairness, and leadership)

Love and humanity (kindness and generosity of spirit)

Self-regulation (control over impulses and emotions, humility)

Transcendence (transcending self-interest, contributing to the greater


One business leader who exemplified these values in his actions was Aaron

Feuerstein, owner of Malden Mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts. After his

factory complex burned down in 1995, it was expected that he would lay off

all his employees until the Mill was rebuilt because it was not profitable to

do otherwise; in fact, it would be both costly and risky to keep employees

on the payroll under these circumstances. Mr. Feuerstein, however, did the

unexpected: he kept all 3000 employees on the payroll for the three months

it took to repair the facility. In making this decision, Harold Kushner (2002),

in his book, Living a Life that Matters, quoted him as saying:

“I have a responsibility to the workers and an equal responsibility to the

community. It would be unconscionable to put three thousand people on the

streets and deliver a death blow to the city of Lawrence.”

In his response to this catastrophe, Mr. Feurstein manifested the universal

values to which we all aspire: he showed courage in paying his employees

when it would likely make his job much more difficult and challenging in the

months ahead. He showed wisdom in recognizing the potentially deleterious

effects and long-term reverberations the layoff could have on his employees’

families and their community. He put justice and fairness as well as

humanity ahead of the financial bottom-line in supporting his employees and

his community through this catastrophe.

As a leader who inspires others through expressing your personal character,

you will:

Personally live your values. Throughout the organization, people tend

to mirror or adjust themselves to the example of their leaders. Living,

as well as speaking, one’s values is what give leaders their credibility, a

characteristic essential for a healthy and productive workplace.

Not make demands on employees that put them in conflict with their

values. Working against one’s values puts a person in a state of cognitive

dissonance or internal conflict. A conflicted person is an uninspired person.

Recognize people for acts of kindness, truthfulness, and honesty. Then

make this a part of the organization’s rewards system.

Think hard and long when tempted to make marginal decisions.

Only claim to have values when they have been tested under pressure.

Acknowledge that each of us has the potential to display character virtues

and that positive aspects of character can be strengthened. Recognize that

we never reach our aspirations vis-à-vis character. It’s a process and a


Learn to distinguish between your extrinsic and intrinsic motivations.

Then put intrinsic above extrinsic motivations.

Extrinsic – Valuing monetary compensation, power over others,


Intrinsic – Finding satisfaction in doing a good job, empowering others,

and finding meaning in one’s work.

Finally, we must think hard and long about the legacy we want to leave in this world.

And the most enduring positive legacy a leader can leave is one impacted by character.

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Finding The Good Life

casita-lindaWritten by

Cedric Johnson, Ph.D and Kristine MacKain, Ph.D

If we were to ask: “What does it mean to live the good life?”, many of us would immediately think, “financial security”.

However, once that need is satisfied, and even if it is never satisfied, we can still live a highly meaningful life, a “good life”.

If we define a “good life” in terms of realizing our highest values, we become rich in the very deepest sense of the word.

To begin to define what is a “good life” for you, ask yourself: “What do I most deeply value in my life?”

Maybe it’s one or more of the following:

  • Making significant contributions to the welfare of others
  • Achieving and celebrating excellence in pursuits
  • Expressing one’s creative (eg, artistic) self
  • Experiencing awe and adventure in travel, Nature, and/or everyday life
  • Seeking and appreciating beauty in Nature, humanity, and/or the Arts
  • Sustaining a satisfying emotional connection with others

Once you have identified your highest value(s), you need to link that value to a specific purpose. Then, you need to act on that purpose.

A couple of years ago, we met a very “rich” man who builds houses for the desperately poor in his community in central Mexico. He told us he had found his life’s calling. In his former life, this man was a successful administrator at a university who loved his job and his life, living on 15 acres in a bucolic countryside. He often told people that he would happily die at his desk. Then one day while visiting a Mexican town, he saw a community of families living with no plumbing in handmade shacks that leaked badly in the rain. He recalled how he had stumbled upon a larger calling that triggered a deeply held

….value: to make a significant contribution. He had found a purpose that expressed that deeply held value.

….purpose (or calling): to meet the needs of the extremely poor in his community by providing them with permanent shelter. This led to his

…..action: to create an organization to build 500 square foot cottages for families without permanent shelter that would include an interior family living space, two private bedrooms, and an indoor toilet.

To date, this man and his organization have built over 80 homes for families who were living, literally, with no solid roof over their heads.

How can YOU take the values you hold most dear to find a purpose in your (community, work and/or personal) life that you can act on now?

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Be the Adult in the Room

When we tell someone to “grow up” it is usually in response to one or many of his/her immature emotional cadenzas.

By contrast, great leaders are viewed as effective when they maintain a positive emotional state, handle pressure well, are responsive rather than reactive (hit the brakes on unruly emotions), and are not easily provoked. In other words, they demonstrate maturity and good judgement.

In an interview with Oprah First Lady Michelle Obama gave a clear description of how to respond to biting and unfair criticism. She described it as making a choice to be the adult in the room with the recognition that

  1. It’s not about you.

Often others repeat hurtful things about us that are grossly inaccurate and patently unfair. These are characterizations of who we really are. Many times a “hot button” issue has been excited in them and they react to us in ways that reenact their own past hurts. Most of our critics, including our own inner judge, grossly misrepresent who we really are.

Action: Depersonalize the negativity

  1. When they go low you go high. 

This statement became one of the most used recent campaign slogans. And even though it may have lost its impact through frequent use,  our baser urge to “jump into the swamp with the alligators” needs to be countered with expressing the “better angels of our nature”. Self-regulation is a mature choice.

Action: Choose the best and not the base.

  1. Forget and move on.

I find that rumination over past hurts is one of the more corrosive habits of the mind where the mentality of “they punch me and I punch back” prevails. Instead, the power of “forgiving and forgetting” is a course correction for past wounds. Not that we actually erase these incident from our memories but we learn to detach from them so as to defuse them.

See my blog on Forgiveness

Action: Lick your wounds and move on

Life is so much more satisfying and productive (and political discourse is more fruitful) when we response from our mature adult self.

Your Story

 Please share an incident where you chose to respond from your adult self.

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The Meaning of Work in Different Cultures

(Most read article in the 6-year history of my blog)

Reflect for a moment on the meaning of work in different cultures and please join the discussion around the closing questions. Remember that within each culture there are exceptions to the general rule.

Also, if you have a different opinion to the one I expressed I would love to hear your point of view.

 Work in the USA

At your typical social occasion in the USA what is one of the first questions people ask you? Is it not “What do you do?” Have you thought for a moment why that is so? Why is it so important for others to know what job you have?

The answer to this question is at the heart of the culture of work in the United States.

“What do you do?” is really tantamount to asking, “What is your purpose? What is your identity?” “How important are you?” By the same token, if you are doing nothing or are unemployed you are nothing.

In addition, the position one has and the money one earns is a measure of how important one is. Money is a scorecard. I distinctly remember two people asking me in recent years“How much do you earn?” They did not want the total of my actual salary. They were just looking for a benchmark to see how we stacked up against each other in terms of importance and the pecking order of life.

Meaning of Work in the USA: Identity/Importance

 Work in Mexico

In Mexico (where we lived for 7 years), work is the means by which a person helps his or her family to get ahead; Mexicans work to advance the education of their children, advance their collective national aspirations, and above all to have time for their family and friends.

Work has such family implications to a Mexican that he/she expects the workplace to have a home-like atmosphere.

To many Mexicans more (time or money) is not better when it comes to working. On a recent visit to our Mexican doctor he decided to do our lab tests right there in his office. He said, “If I send them down the street to the lab I will have to wait until 3pm for the results. By that time I want to be home with my family”.

In Mexico when it comes to money, enough is more than enough. Recently I read of an international company that purchased a Mexican business. Before the acquisition the annual profits of the Mexican enterprise were $40 million. The new international board of directors now set the annual goal for the group as $70 million. The Mexicans leaders did not respond enthusiastically to this new goal. To them $40 million annual profit was quite enough.

(Comment: I was informed that this verdict about the place of work in the lives of Mexicans does not apply in all cases like in the industrialized Northern area of the country)

Meaning of Work in MexicoFor the family: With my family

Work in France

“In France, work takes a backseat to the pursuit of pleasure. If a job isn’t entertaining, most French workers would prefer unemployment” – French Psychiatrist Clotaire Rapaille

In France work is valued for the pleasure it provides the individual both in and out of the workplace. The French don’t see any point in spending 12 hours/day at the office; they will tell you that after six hours, you become increasingly unproductive. So, from the French point of view, why not focus on being highly productive for six hours and spend the rest of the time doing all the other things you enjoy? Some of the most emotional strikes occur when the government tries to institute longer working days. And then for the French there are the 6-week annual vacations (versus 2 weeks in the USA).

Meaning of Work in FranceFor Pleasure and Only Pleasure

Question for Discussion 

What is the meaning of work in your culture?

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The Pinocchio Syndrome – The Quest for Truth in the Age of Spin




Under current law, it is a crime for a private citizen to lie to a government official, but not for a government official to lie to the people – David M Fraser

What’s wrong with that statement?

You know the story. Pinocchio’s nose became longer the more lies he told.

We live in a post-truth society. With the epidemic of fake news, boldfaced lies on many fronts, “alternative facts”, and runaway fact denial, we soon will see some very long noses in our country

To be fair, lies are equal opportunity villains when it comes to political spin. Someone once said that politics was like window cleaning. The dirt always seems to be on the other side.

Despite this alarming trend from all sides of the political spectrum the key is to take care of our own noses by being vigilant advocates for the truth. We also need to fight spin with truth and not sink to the level of invectives.

If we don’t, imagine the long-term consequences if,

  • A CEO concocted facts in the annual report to the board of directors and shareholders.
  • An employee fudged a weekly review to a manager on the status of a project.
  • A parent lied to his/her children.
  • A President lied to the people.

Intuitively we know that we should judge others by the content of their character. Most folks dare not

  • Rationalize a lie as a bargaining tool or a communication ploy to make a strong point.
  • Allow the retribution impulse to replace the need for collaboration.
  • Use lies as a political tool to manipulate others.
  • Make up ‘news’ either to hurt someone or improve our ratings.

So how then do we return to the true north value of honesty?

Consider these two actions. We need,

  1. Constant vigilance against confirmation bias

Research warns us against confirmation bias. Here the trend is to gravitate uncritically towards pundits and studies that support our point of view. We need to be like the Dalai Lama who said, “If a scientific discovery contradicts my Buddhist beliefs, I will give up my belief.”

Such humility and openness potentially protects us against untruth. It also helps us step back and consider the reliability of the sources of our information. For instance, a report by a Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist is more likely to deal in facts that some private news website.

  1. Courage to speak to the truth of a position

It is difficult to speak up in the face of lies or a strong statement that seeks to manipulate us. With everything from death threats to other forms of retribution, many dissidents adopt the attitude “When they go low, we go away”. However retreating from the battle for truth insures the continuance of the mistruth. We should never underestimate the power of the protest any person.  We witnessed to power of “we the people” in the recent Women’s March.

Remember Rosa Parks.

We are in for a long and challenging season where truth will be assaulted on many fronts. Topics under the ‘truth’ microscope  include global warming, the place of torture, civil rights, the right of every qualified citizen to vote, and our place in the international community. Each topic will require an honest and unbiased look at the data, the use of critical thought, examining our conscience, and us having the courage to speak out and act with courage.

The challenge I give myself is “Each day, how can I advocate for the truth?

Why is the veracity of our information so important in the light of the fact that, according to Charles J Sykes of the NY Times, “The battle over truth is now central to our politics”?




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