Courage to Speak the Truth

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Capt.) Eric Wismar
  • 103rd Airlift Wing
Abraham Lincoln had the reputation of being honest. A very clever GEICO ad shows "Honest Abe" reluctantly responding to his wife's inquiry regarding how her dress fits. Needless to say, his honesty was not welcomed by Mary after he very delicately indicates the truth. She storms off.

The military places great emphasis on honor, integrity and honesty. Prior to any battle or crucial decision, commanders and other leaders depend on their staff and key people to give honest assessments of the situation. All of us have known honest people who will tell the unvarnished truth. We also have known people with less integrity, people we distrust. The key to Lincoln's honesty lies in the fact that he was a man of great courage. The well-known lecturer, bestselling author and talk show host Dr. Phil (McGraw) tells us, "It takes courage and commitment to be brutally, genuinely honest with yourself." He is referring to understanding and acknowledging one's own weaknesses, liabilities and failures. Without self-honesty we will not change things about ourselves that require change, and we will find it difficult to be honest with others. For example, let's say I decide to wire a light fixture and know nothing about electrical circuits and wiring. My wife asks me if I know what I am doing. I say, "Of course I do!" Obviously I was dishonest with myself and with her. Besides dishonesty, I may be in for a shock. I may have all the right tools, supplies and all the commitment to the task, but until I get the knowledge and code requirements, I put myself and my household at risk.

The process begins when I acknowledge that I don't know everything and that I need some help. As Dr. Phil says, "You cannot change what you won't acknowledge needs changing!" The apostle Peter writes in his first letter to the church in chapter 3 (verses 10-12), "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." Honesty with ourselves is the first step in honesty with others. John writes in his first letter to the church, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us" (1 John 1:8-10). As we continue to serve our nation, we ask God to grant us honest civilian and military leaders. We ask that He grant us the courage to speak the truth which can come at great personal cost. To do otherwise will most often be more costly.

--Ch. Eric Wismar