My husband and I recently enjoyed a summer holiday in North Yorkshire.
While visiting the picturesque village of Thornton-Le-Dale, I noticed a sign in the car park. It read ‘Honesty box not in use – please pay at machine’.
Clearly, there had previously been an informal system whereby those parking left their donation and went merrily on their way.
Now, visitors were left grappling with unfriendly machines and the unspoken threat of recriminations if they failed to cough up the cash.
The sign struck me as unexpected and almost amusing in its bluntness. But my amusement was tinged with sadness.
The sign implied that visitors were less trustworthy now and had to be managed, and even punished, if they misbehaved.
There was a sense too of moving away from a person-to-person transaction towards a more faceless, automated existence.
Tourists were being kept at arm’s length, processed like sausages for the summer barbecue.
Truth was understood as a thing of the past: the new era called for suspicion and the punching of plastic in the slot.
Jesus said: “The truth will set you free.” (John 8:32).
He also claimed to be the way, the truth and the life. The Holy Spirit, too, is referred to as the ‘spirit of truth’.
Truth is one of God’s essential attributes. When we speak truth, we demonstrate thatwe are created in God’s image.
When we are dishonest, we risk association with the enemy of God, who is called ‘the father of lies’.
Just how truthful are we? I’m not talking about voicing your every thought aloud as you sit on the bus. That would be foolish!
But if we are not prepared to get real with the people we see day to day, we are moving away from our true humanity and towards something colder and more alien.
When someone asks how you are, they probably want to know the answer. The level of detail you give might depend on how well you know each other.
But to say ‘Fine’, when you’re not, is like paying at the machine instead of enjoying a real human encounter.
With those closest to us, are we prepared to risk vulnerability? Can we begin to move away from mere chitchat about sports, the weather and our to-do lists?
What might it be like to share our deeper feelings, our hopes and dreams, with another person?
Those are the conversations that build true connection, relationships that satisfy and strengthen us. Maybe we could even begin to open up about our insecurities and fears.
We have a choice: to keep ourselves cocooned in a web of half-truths, interacting at only a mechanical level, or to build meaningful relationships by letting others know who we really are.
Honesty, it seems to me, is still the best policy.