Sunday, October 18, 2009

WARNING: This Post Contains Balloon Family Reference!

I just gotta talk about honesty for a minute.

People lie all the time. "How are you?" "Great." "I had a fabulous time." "Wonderful meeting you." That sort of thing. Those little social untruths that keep us from being completely honest. They seem innocent enough.

But the Buddhist precept of honesty, sometime called "Non-lying," asks that we go deeper and deeper in our own examination of each and every thing we say, even striving to be honest in these small and seemingly inconsequential things. I don't know about you, but I think that is a lifetime worth of work right there.

Still, there is something so incredibly clear and beautiful about an honest person. In my experience, it is mostly children and very very old people who have the gift of unvarnished honesty.

So, even though I know lots of folks are sick of hearing about Balloon Boy, and that there are far more important things to talk about, I do think it is a very important and vivid example of what happens when one sets out to deceive. A "hoax" sets off lie after lie after lie. The father in this case not only sat in front of TV cameras and lied repeatedly, he coached and encouraged his children to lie! If you watch the tape carefully, you can tell that is the source of the confusion in the faces of the older children. The younger one even gets sick to his stomach! If only every liar had such visible symbol of his/her deception, like our friend Pinocchio!

Parents do this more than we'd like to admit, too. Of course, none of us are as deceptive as the Heeny family, but neither are we pure of all dishonesty. How often do parents tell their kids to say they are not home when the phone rings, to tell the school they were sick, or something of that nature? Even more insidious are parents who lie to their kids, lie in front of their kids, and tell half truths and distortions while their kids are listening. The children grow up, of course, learning to lie.

That's why there is a sense in which this is a classic morality tale that, exaggerated and odd as it seems, may just make some people consider the extent of their own honesty. It was the moment at which the small child we now call Balloon Boy blurted out the truth during an interview that the suspicions of the media and the public were aroused.

The sheriff said that that was an "Aha!" moment for law enforcement. It was for me, too.

I know that I am going to work a little bit harder on my own honesty in the coming days.

PRAYER: God, we know we are human beings with many flaws. We want to speak truth and live honestly, but we also try to please, or to impress, or to avoid conflict. In so doing, we speak half-truths or leave untruths unchallenged. Let us see the way to honesty, as hard as it may be, as narrow and hard to find as it may be, and let us see that way is the only way to a pure heart. Give us strength for the journey, so that our words do not betray, hurt, or deceive our fellow humans. Amen.