By David Hegg
We’ve all heard it. It’s one of those sayings you hear and smile at, and then forget. Originally penned during World War II, medical doctor Gordon A. Eadie wrote, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
In his article, Eadie was identifying the truth that the worldwide war was not only a war of arms but also a war of ideas. What he declared in his oft repeated maxim is as true today as it ever was. And just recently, in the Israeli-Hamas conflict, we see that an ideological conflict has precipitated an all-out war of arms.
In the wake of a long list of human-initiated tragedies in the past year, it is time for us all to think about what we believe in and are willing to stand for. That evil exists in this world is a given. The idea that evil can be prevented underlies every code by which societies have attempted to order themselves. We have laws to curb the evil inclinations of the human heart, but increasingly, we understand that legal restraints are never enough.
What we need are those internal values that constitute a vital element known as self-control. In short, internal compliance – self-control – is always more effective than external compulsion. But internal compliance means believing in something enough to stand for it even when doing so will mean swimming upstream against the current of culture.
Today, the current of culture is eroding the core value of truth, and the honesty that goes with it. Honesty has everything to do with truth. We are honest to the degree that what we consider to be right aligns with reality, what is actually true. To be honest people, first we must be committed to seeking, finding, speaking and living according to what is true.
It is axiomatic that where deceit becomes acceptable, where truth can be stretched and redefined, relationship decays. So much in our lives depends on being able to trust others to do what they say, and say what is true. Honesty also extends to our individual responsibility to obey the rules we have agreed to in our society.
For example, when the light turns green and you head through the intersection, you are risking your life on the belief that those coming from your right and left are going to be honest and live up to their vow to stop at the red light. How absurd would it be if a selfish minority decided that red lights are a social construct and should not interfere with one’s personal freedom? In thousands of ways every day, we count on our neighbors to adhere to foundational truths. Life works when we stand for basic truths and keeps society from falling.
But we are falling. We have long recognized an erosion of truth in our world. Lies have become the way of life for too many. Husbands deceive their wives, and wives deceive their husbands. Affairs are grounded in deceit, and our children have watched and learned that the truth can be shaped to promote our sense of well-being. Cheating is at an all-time high in the business world, in the school, and in the home.
Honesty is also decaying in our political world. Every election season we become more and more weary with facts and figures, percentages and promises that are later found to be duplicitous. It is common now that, after every speech and every debate the fact checkers publish pages and pages of inaccuracies on both sides of the aisle. Obfuscation and outright lies seem to go unacknowledged and have become almost an accepted part of our political conversation. Does anyone else see the destination this road leads to?
But most damaging of all is the societal dishonesty that has brought about the whole gender spectrum invasion of “unscience” that is now foisted on us with penalties for speaking the truth. Ultimately, we’re watching our society fall for a damaging and divisive ideology simply because we refuse to stand for a something that is biologically certain.
Apparently, Dr. Eadie was right. Look around. By abandoning traditional Judeo-Christian values as a society, we’ve jettisoned the requirement that people tell the truth. And consequently, we’ve become easy pickings for those who are actually straight-faced about their radical dehumanizing agendas. And here’s the big question: Are we really better off now than we were when truth was defined as alignment with reality?
It’s time for honest people to stand for basic truths and quit falling for untruths even as we learn from Dr. Eadie that the real war is always about beliefs. If ours aren’t worth standing for, as a society we’ll just continue falling.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.