“Buy the truth, and sell it not.” (Proverbs 23:23)
A writer of old once said, “Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour,” (Zechariah 8:16) and that is what I wish to say now. Once it was asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) Truth is the foundation of all things, the rock upon which all things stable and dependable rest. When truth is gone, all that can be relied upon is gone. A life is worse than useless if it lacks the elements of truth.
Every noble, sincere person loves truth. For it he will give all that he possesses. Nothing is too precious to be given for truth; he so loves honor and uprightness that he would suffer the loss of all things, even his own life, rather than to perjure his soul. Men have faced imprisonment and death rather than swear falsely.
Truth beautifies the wearer. It sits like a royal diadem upon the head of all who possess it. Nothing so beautifies the face as a noble heart and a clear conscience. One whose motives are all pure, and who has spoken the truth, can look the world in the face without flinching. The light of honor and sincerity brightens the eye and clears the brow. Though the features may be irregular and the complexion imperfect, yet these beautiful qualities of the soul will cover all that and give to the homeliest face a beauty that is becoming. I would rather be known for the beauty of my character than the beauty of my face; would not you?
A lie is cowardly. After all that might be said to excuse an untruth, when you have sifted it down to its starting point, you will find its real reason for being is cowardice. Whether the lie was told to cover a fault, or acted to pretend what was not true, or said in spite and hatefulness, cowardice is the real cause of its existence.
The most common lie, and perhaps the least blamable, is the one told to cover a mistake or fault. This is done because the offender is afraid to meet the consequences of his deed. But a truly brave heart will not give in to this weakness. It is better to look up and tell the truth, even if the confession will bring punishment and disgrace. It is better to be true in heart than to have merely the appearance to truth on the outside.
To be truthful, then, is courageous. Sometimes it takes more courage to tell the truth than to enter a battle.
A young man once espoused a cause which was much spoken against, but in which he believed with all his heart. In behalf of his cause he stood before men high in authority, but it was hard to find one who would assist him. He especially wished to gain the favor of one certain man, and at last he stood in his private office for the interview which he had sought for so long. The man looked up at him sharply before he offered him a seat, and asked him a certain question. Now, to answer this question exactly according to truth, would without doubt, (the young man thought,) prejudice the older man before he had heard the cause. For one instant his mind was confused, and a lie was ready to come from his lips, but he rallied and said to himself, “If my cause is just as I think it is, it is able to stand on truth,” and looking the man in the eye, he told the truth exactly.
A look of relief came over the older man’s face, and he answered, “I have been interested in this matter for some time, but have been unable to find a man who would unflinchingly tell me the truth. I am convinced that you will do that and am willing to hear your cause.” The young man was given a seat, and before he left the private office of the older man, a course of action was mapped out which in time brought success to his beloved project. Truthfulness does not always meet its reward so suddenly, but the reward will come.
The meanest kind of lie is one told deliberately to hurt another person. When the final judgment comes, such lies will be counted in with murder; for the same evil motive lies back of each. In the one the perpetrator had the courage to strike the deathblow; but in the other he was too cowardly to kill outright, so gave a wound in the back, from the dark. Would that such lies could be painted in their true colors.
The silliest lie is one acted out by a person’s pretending to be richer and finer than he is. You have seen such, I know. He is always seeking to be with the rich and distinguished, striving in every way possible to dress as well and appear as wealthy as the other. You will find girls of this class simpering and mincing along, scarcely recognizing acquaintances who are not well dressed, and lavishing much attention upon anyone well dressed and elegant. John, a young friend of mine, once gave a short, gruff laugh in his throat, when I asked after the welfare of a certain girl, a mutual acquaintance of his and mine. I looked up, surprised at the way he had acted, and found an amused expression in his eyes and about his mouth, and he said, “Bess doesn’t know me any more when I have my overalls on. I have met her several times on the street when I have had to be out in my work clothes, and she did not recognize me at all. I met her the other day when I was dressed up, and she was as friendly as ever. You know about how a fellow feels in the presence of such a person.” Poor Bess, every right-thinking person would place the same construction upon her actions as John did. Those of real worth hate such double-facedness.
There is an adage which says, “Always speak the truth.” But we should not construe this to mean that all the truth should always be spoken. There are many things which though true are far better unsaid. Unpleasant things will not help along by being told. It is far better to keep silence, than by speaking, to give offense.
Were I looking for a girl to fill a responsible position, almost my first question would be, “Is she truthful?” Though she might have the knowledge and ability, might make a good appearance and be ever so pleasing in manner, I would not consider her if her word could not be relied upon. A girl who will not always speak the truth places herself in a position to be continually mistrusted. Nothing will break confidence so quickly as an untruth, end it is hard to get back that which is lost when confidence is gone.
The best advice for any girl is always to speak the truth from the heart; to love and to keep it as her chief possession. So long as she knows in her own heart that she has been true, that she has not borne false witness nor spoken deceitfully she can face the world courageously.
A bulwark of truth is absolutely necessary to solid worth. A character that lacks the foundation is weak, and in time be broken down, no matter how high may be the aspirations and ideals of the girl. Practical, everyday truthfulness in little things and great things is the only safe course for a girl to pursue. Hold truth fast. Do not let it go. Be honest, be true, and let your words be spoken from the depth of a heart that is not filled with deception.
The really truthful person cannot carelessly break a promise. Her word is sacred, and when she has said that she will or will not do anything, she can be depended upon. I have heard mothers say of a daughter, “She promised me before she left that she would not go there, and I know she will keep her promise.” Always I have thought, “Oh, happy mother! Your confidence speaks much for your daughter.”
It is so easy to let a promise slip. First, it is given with little consideration. It may be that the girl is pressed to do something which she does not want to do, or is not sure would be right for her to do, and, lacking the courage to say no, she promises lightly, never intending to keep her word. It is the easiest way out of her present perplexity, and she makes her fickle promise never thinking that she is laying a weak plank in her character.
Again, a girl in her thought makes a difference between people. There are certain persons with whom she would be very careful to keep her word, and would be troubled indeed to be compelled to break a promise made to them, while with others she esteems her word lightly. Keeping faith should be held just as sacred with one as another. A promise to mother or little sister should be kept as strictly as if it were made to the most noted person of the city.
Promises whose breaking would inconvenience others should be strictly kept. If a girl has promised to meet someone at nine o’clock at a certain place, she should, if it is possible at all, be there exactly at nine. If she allows herself to think that quarter- or half-past nine will do just as well, she is actually stealing that much of the other person’s time. That is both dishonest and untruthful.
Another kind of untruth often indulged in is the telling of falsehoods to little children to frighten them into obedience. This is very wrong because of the effect it has upon the character of the one who does it, and upon the child who is thus fooled.
There is no angle of life in which truth is not preferable to prevarication. Too high an estimate cannot be set upon it, nor can it be loved with too great a love.
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