A multiplicity of scholarly evidence emerges continually to generate, confirm or refute certain theories and beliefs. While some of them are presented as impartial and unbiased, many are produced or interpreted to prove a point subjectively, and with a degree of exaggeration for greater impact. This is both unfortunate and unhelpful, for embellishing the truth is counter-productive.
Not so long ago, politicians in positions of influence in the UK and the US, and many other developed countries, were known for their caution in speaking publicly, preferring understatement over hyperbole and verifiable fact over misrepresentation. As always in politics, the facts may sometimes have been selectively chosen, manipulated or concealed, but on the whole it was done discreetly and persuasively, to the general satisfaction of their civic audience at the time.
In the UK, the apparent probity of influencers changed noticeably in the context of the Brexit referendum and its aftermath, when certain assurances based on allegedly firm facts by experts in and out of government were proven to be extreme exaggeration for political gain. “Project Fear” and “Project Promise” resulted in a disgust by the public at the blatant attempts to deceive them, and a loss of trust in anything said by an expert. Politics was debased, and the fallout continues still. Much of the current unedifying debacle over Brexit is due to past and present deceit.
In the US, meanwhile, President Trump has introduced a new form of statesmanship whereby overstatement and factual fantasy are so commonplace and obvious his words can provoke ridicule rather than the admiration he would like. If he told the truth, moderately, his political and moral position would be very much stronger, but he seems unable to break a habit of a lifetime.
The world of science is not immune from embellishing the truth too. A number of concerning reports about the environment have been issued recently relating, for example, to the likely extinction of insects within decades, the impact of climate change and the melting of sea ice. An eminent scientist, speaking on the BBC last week, sadly admitted that many of the claims made by well-meaning advocates for nature, using such science, were exaggerated or used selectively in order to dramatise a problem and bring attention to it: he said that such distortions were unhelpful to good causes, and could harm rather than promote them. The truth always emerges, and people have long memories.
Like Donald Trump, and others, embellishing the truth can become a habit, for all of us. It is so easy to make our story more impressive by adding a few inches here or hours there, changing words and massaging the tale, but by so doing we are trying to make ourselves more interesting, or more important, or shifting blame.
Rewriting our history does not alter the truth of what happened: it is the truth that is registered on the soul, not the illusion we may prefer. We cannot lie to Spirit, and to try to do so, consciously or unconsciously, brings problems of its own. It just isn’t worth it.