The Danger Of Telling Half-Truths.
A story requested by Anne, a teacher, concerned about her students’ dishonesty and lack of responsibility and how it will affect their future lives.
My name is Philip. I have a great deal of experience of telling half-truths. I used to avoid my responsibilities and duties by only saying part of what had happened. In the end, no one believed anything I said. I was not trusted any more, and was thought of as a joke. I wriggled out of things to avoid work, and eventually no one would give me any work. There was no unemployment benefit in those days and I ended up stealing things to stay alive. Finally, I found myself in behind bars. I hated prison, everyone was a liar there. You couldn’t trust a soul. In the outside world people told the truth and I knew what to expect from them. It was just me who was the liar. I thought it was all right to tell only half the story, what I spoke of was true, but by not telling the whole story, I was trying to make people believe something that was not real. That made me a liar, but I would not admit it, even to myself.
I will give you an example. I had three brothers, we all had our duties to do on my father’s farm. It was hard work but as my father said, ‘It puts food on the table. Do you want to eat? Then you have to work.’
We each had certain jobs to do around the farm. Mine was to feed the cows during their morning milking, amongst other things. I had to carry hay or silage to the milking parlour. It was cold, wet and dark in the winter. The best way of doing the job was in the evening before dark, then the feed would be ready for the cows in the morning. If you left it until morning you would be fumbling around in the dark or half light, falling over tools someone else had left around.
Last thing at night Father would ask me. ‘Did you fetch in the hay?’ I always said ‘Yes,’ whether I had not. I might have put the proper load in for the cows, or just a handful , thinking that I would do it next day. Come the morning I would finish the job.
Father hated that, seeing me stumbling around half awake with armfuls of hay, while he was trying to milk the cows.
‘You said you fed them last night. What are you doing now?’
‘I did feed them, but mother called me in for supper and you know how vexed she is when we eat the meal when it’s cold.’
I was full of excuses. I just wanted an easy life.
Father warned me that the cows would go dry if we did not did feed them enough and said that because I was such a liar, he never knew how much fodder they had eaten.
I just thought he was a bad tempered old man and continued with my half-truths and excuses. The cows did go dry, no milk came from two of them. I knew it was my fault. I was giving short rations because I would have to shift a mountain of hay from a distant barn when the supply close to the parlour ran out.
Father exploded. ‘You useless pile of cow dung! You can go and work for someone else. You are no use to me or your mother.’ He banned me from the farm. That’s when my life took a downward spiral. The little work I had soon came to an end because the employer quickly discovered I was not to be trusted, either for the truth, or because of my habit of taking things which were not mine to take. I was soon in prison.
Eventually I did learn that I needed people to trust me if they were going to employ me. The rewards of being trusted and the satisfaction of doing a good job were far away better than the pleasure of skipping work and getting away with doing as little as possible.
When do you think this story took place?
Where did Phillip live and work?
Why did he tell only half the story – or ‘half truths’ as he called them.
What was the effect of telling half truths on him?
Why was his father so angry with him?
Does the story remind you of anything in your life?
Is it better to tell the truth and get into a bit of trouble, or to tell half truths and never be trusted as a result?
What is the problem if no one ever trusts you?
How does it feel when you know you are always honest and so does everyone else?
What are the benefits of being trustworthy?