How to Create a Nation of Liars and Thieves
I was in my late twenties, early thirties before the issue of integrity became important to me. I met my first teacher, Tony Speed, Vice-President, of Farr Associates, a behavioral science firm, when I was 27 years old. Over the course of this 10 year relationship, Tony would serve as one of my big wake-up calls and an initiation into another world. Up to that point, I had no integrity. I’m not suggesting I was a bad person. I was an unaware person.
Through these early years of development, I met other individuals who were also on similar paths of self-awareness and there would be numerous, transformational experiences that would form the thread for many of us to follow as we headed out of the mess and into a meaningful life.
One of those friends contacted me in the early eighties and told me that he had sent me a book, “Winning through Enlightenment” by Ron Smotherman, MD. Loving this book, I ordered another book that Smotherman wrote, Transforming #1.”
In this book, Smotherman spends only a few pages discussing the issue of integrity. At the time I read his comments, I would have absolutely described myself as someone who had integrity. But after reading what he said about the topic, I realized that according to what he was saying, I did not have integrity and I can say with no exaggeration that I was deeply troubled by this. Integrity had become vital to me.
In his thoughts, Smotherman laid out a scale of 10 levels of integrity, birth being the condition of “normal.” But he provides two additional levels of integrity above “normal,” suggesting that there are levels of integrity with which we have no experience. From “normal,” it’s all down-hill as we go about the business of losing our integrity in order to survive, to make it through, to be OK, and to avoid pain and suffering.
Smotherman suggests that everyone will be in the lowest three levels of his integrity model by the time the individual is 21 years old, ending up in the dead-zone of “disloyalty, opposition or uncertainty,” and 75% of those who end up there will spend the rest of their lives in these hellholes of human existence never making it out. At MindSpring™, we think it has accelerated since his writing and that the individual will hit bottom by the time he or she is 16 years old. Anytime a client or group sees this entire model, they also state that the 75% must be wrong, that it must be closer to 90%. It’s that incriminating.
That’s a lot of unhappy, angry, confused people. But how could this be when every single one of us is told from birth how important it is to tell the truth? I thought if I told the truth, everything would be OK. The truth will set you free, we are told. In the vertical world of consciousness and spiritual awakening, that is true. In the horizontal world of daily life and work, the truth does anything but set you free. It becomes a source of pain and suffering. Instead, we are taught and learn to lie.
It doesn’t take a child very long at all to see and experience the hypocrisy of truth-telling. Tell the truth and you get punished. Tell the truth and you get slapped, beaten, grounded, and made to feel guilt and shame. There are few who can’t recall these traumatic moments that are seared in the brain and serve as constant reminders of the dangers of telling the truth.
Place your hand on the Bible and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. What the swearing-in should say is go ahead and tell us the truth so we can go ahead and put you in jail. How ridiculous it is for us to believe that someone in these conditions is going to tell the truth. People tell the truth when they believe they will not be harmed.
As a nation, we do not honor the truth. As individuals, we do not honor the truth. It is not a mystery as why we live in a country full of liars, daily corruption, endless greed and a line 1,000 miles long of individuals willing to do or say anything at whatever the cost to others or the planet to make a buck. The reason why is because we have learned that telling the truth results in pain and suffering and who is going to do that when they know what is going to happen next? The leaders of our nation time and time again teach us that telling the truth is not important. What have we done to have created this nightmare?
At the time of this frontal assault of reading Smotherman’s comments on integrity, it became my mission in my life to become a person of integrity. Like most people, I have known great betrayal and injustice in my life and collected enough souvenirs and scars to be depressed and enraged for what had befallen me for the rest of my life. But I was then and remain today moved by what Smotherman said and I wanted to become THAT. The question was not then nor is it now how does a person become THAT. The path is known and can be taught. The question was then and now for all of us, do you have the courage to walk the path and become THAT?
I have learned that without integrity you have nothing and you are nobody. With integrity, you sleep well at night and your cosmos orbits nicely. But as we all know, walking the path and talking the path are two entirely separate paths, two entirely different worlds.
But I know how to rid ourselves of these parasites that populate our nation, our financial institutions, our politics, and the very fabric of life we call the American way. Let’s solve the problem.
It is going to begin with parenting. And here is what I would do. I would pass a law that prohibits anyone from punishing a child until the age of 18. Until that time, when a child makes a mistake, we, as individuals, as educational systems and as a nation, teach the child the difference between right and wrong and provide the child an opportunity to correct their mistake. We do not use their mistakes against them but use their mistakes as mechanisms to lift the child up, and teach, not punish. It takes no talent to punish. It takes significant talent to teach. It takes no talent to condemn. It takes significant talent to love, particularly when you are the one the other has harmed.
It is simple. Telling children that they should tell the truth is one of the biggest lies we practice, one of the biggest myths we stand for as a nation. If it is true, then why don’t people tell the truth? People lie because they do not want to suffer. We have embedded this notion in our culture because we punish children. Children learn to lie at very early ages because they do not want to be harmed. It is only when we learn that holding people accountable, especially children, is not synonymous with punishing them will we begin the process of riding ourselves of the never-ending plague of liars and thieves who breed like rats across the US, filling their investment accounts at the expense of the environment, the well-being of others, and the future of our country, the United States of America, the America we know it can and is supposed to be.
The change of consciousness that will be required to pull off something like this is massive. But it begins with you. There are three things you can do to begin:
1. Stop punishing your children. When you do, you are developing a liar instead of a conscious, responsible human being. Give up the need to punish and begin to teach yourself what you need to learn in order to become a teacher versus an executioner. I promise you that the other person, whether child or adult, is doing the best they can with what they know. The object is to change what they know and this objective is achieved much faster through teaching rather than punishing.
2. When you make a mistake, take responsibility for it and tell the truth. Tell the truth to yourself first. Then tell the truth to other people about yourself. Integrity is not about being lily white. It is about being responsible.
3. Live a life of self-implication. Have the courage to implement integrity into your life and refuse to bargain your soul away, not because the rules say you shouldn’t or because it is immoral but because it causes your life and the lives of others to work.
The time will come when we as a nation have raised a generation of children into adulthood who have learned not only to tell the truth but who value the same in their children and we will change the world. We will begin to create a world of ethical people who don’t talk about integrity but who live integrity. We will move from a nation of individual devouring to mutual and joyful giving to others, and then and only then will we know “abundance and empowerment,” the two stages Smotherman suggests lies above the condition of “normal.” We will learn that the well-being of the other is our well-being, and in serving that, we will gain integrity and the truth will set us free.
To me, integrity is the condition of needing nothing from anybody for any reason to be OK. As long as you think you do, you will compromise your integrity and do whatever you think you have to do to get what you think you need in order to be OK. So, as it turns out, it is we who have created the liars and thieves that populate our world through the hypocritical parenting and judicial patterns that predictably produce people who would rather lie than tell the truth because they know that if they tell the truth, their lives will be irreparably changed and they would prefer to stay the liars and thieves they are rather than to face the music.
It is the ones, rare as they are, who when faced with the excruciating choice of telling the truth and who do, who are willing to face the harm and life-changing circumstances that await them, it is they who have the possibility of not just knowing but experiencing the fact that the truth will truly set you free. If dealt with correctly, abundance and empowerment will be theirs. They are the pioneers of tomorrow and the new world that is being born today. Welcome to Smotherman’s top 25%.
In the meantime, there is work to be done and it begins with you, the individual. Your actions will change the world.