PETALUMA, Calif., May 2, 2016 — Before the 2012 presidential election, researchers from the University of Notre Dame discovered that the less people lie, the better they feel, both mentally and physically. Even their relationships improve.
Four years later, as we find ourselves enmeshed in yet another election involving candidates who, to a greater or lesser extent, appear to be playing fast and loose with the facts, this study – and its implications for individual and societal health – bears revisiting.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, however, we should remember that lying is by no means exclusive to elected officials. According to Anita Kelly, one of the Notre Dame researchers, “Recent evidence indicates that Americans average about 11 lies per week.” In another study, conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, 60 percent of those surveyed said they couldn’t make it through a 10-minute conversation without lying at least once.
Politician or not, we’ve all got our work cut out for us.
For years – millennia, actually – we have been encouraged by prophets and parents alike to cut back on the flimflam. “Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t,’” urged Jesus. “Anything beyond this is from the evil one.”
But that doesn’t mean we have been listening.
If anything, it would appear that in nearly every walk of life, not just politics, dishonesty is on the rise. Either we have convinced ourselves that being consistently honest is too high a standard or that it simply doesn’t matter. The thing is, though, it does. “Honesty is spiritual power,” wrote Mary Baker Eddy in her groundbreaking book, Science and Health. “Dishonesty is human weakness, which forfeits divine help.”
Eddy saw honesty as not simply a moral imperative, but an immensely practical one, evidenced in the very same physical and mental improvements described in the Notre Dame study. The main difference is that while Kelly et al. attributed these improvements to a brain-based effort to be more honest, Eddy – considered what you might call a Bible-based researcher – saw them as the natural result of an equally natural yielding on our part to the loving intentions of what she termed the “divine Mind” or God.
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Granted, this sort of mental consent may feel more instinctive to some than to others. But that doesn’t make it any less natural, the standard of being consistently honest any less achievable, or the benefits that inevitably result any less available. All it takes is the willingness to see ourselves as who we really are, even the essential expression of an innately honest Mind.
Tempting as it may be to sit around and grouse about the dishonesty of others, the demand is to focus on being honest ourselves. It’s also one of the best things we can do to encourage and support a more widespread sense of honesty in every aspect of our lives, including politics.
Eric Nelson writes about the link between consciousness and health from his perspective as a practitioner of Christian Science. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Follow him on Twitter @norcalcs. Continue the conversation on Facebook.