At the trial of Jesus the Roman Governor, Pilate, asked the question, “What is truth?”
An annual survey asks which professionals do people trust to tell the truth. Top of the league with 93 per cent are nurses, while at the bottom are politicians trusted by just 15 per cent. Teachers are high at 88 per cent, police 71 per cent and clergy at 69 per cent - just one per cent above hairdressers!
A phrase often heard is that we are living in a ‘post truth’ society, the belief that statements and pronouncements purporting to say one thing in fact are saying something else altogether.
There is an air of cynicism making it hard to believe anything being said is true. It is quite a frightening state of affairs.
Trust in people in authority has been steadily eroded over the years. When someone in a public position says something which is later found not to be true it helps to chip away further at the sense of trustworthiness of anyone in authority.
So some politicians were found to abusing their positions and claiming fictitious expenses. Some clergy have been found to be scoundrels abusing people’s trust in them. Some police have been found to be corrupt.
The result is that all the members of those professions are treated with suspicion. I even found that myself when working in a diocesan capacity at the time when stories of abusing clergy were being revealed. I found myself eyeing many of my colleagues with a suspicious eye. When you have been fooled so effectively by one individual, you cannot help but wonder if all the others in that person’s line of work are similarly tainted, just as now with stories of abuse surfacing from the footballing world.
Rebuilding trust is extremely hard once it has been lost. It is why marriages after an affair often break down, and it is only a small percentage of marriages that manage to rebuild the trust they once had. It is not impossible though.
It requires a scrupulous honesty about past mistakes and an absolute transparency about current actions and intentions.
The danger of living in a ‘post truth’ society is that we cease to expect people to speak the truth. That in turn encourages people to be non-truthful in their dealings knowing that what is said is treated with cynicism anyway. It encourages a further erosion of trust and eventually leads to a break down in society itself.
We all need to up our game! We each need to speak and deal truthfully with one another and to expect others to be similarly truthful in their dealings with us. When we do that we have a chance of redeeming our deteriorating society.