Like most of you, I often get forwarded e-mail messages that contain inaccurate, unfair, and unkind information. And also like you, I hear things being said on the radio or on TV that are of a similar nature.
Recently, I have received several forwarded e-mail messages from a friend and former colleague. A few days ago I responded by saying that I was disappointed in him. Since he is a minister, I wrote that I expect him not to forward e-mails that are inaccurate, unfair, and unkind.
I realize that from time to time I may express opinions on this blog that some of you do not agree with. But I have never knowingly or intentionally written anything that is inaccurate, unfair, or unkind. If any of you ever think that I have done that, please let me know. It is natural for people to have different opinions, but they ought to be able to agree on the facts.
Bernard Baruch (1870-1965) was an American financier and presidential advisor. You have probably heard his oft-quoted words, spoken in 1950, but here they are again: “Every man has a right to his own opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.” (I am sure he thought that the same was true for women.)
Rotary International has an excellent “four-way test” that is often repeated at their meetings. This is the first of the four tests: “Is it the truth?” That is what Rotarians seek to ask themselves about everything they think, say, or do. What a difference it would make in society if we all asked ourselves that question and sought to say only that which is truthful (accurate).
“Is it fair to all concerned?” is the second part of Rotary’s four-way test: Fairness is an attitude marked by impartiality and honesty; it is free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism. Fairness sees all people as being of equal value, so it doesn’t treat some people better than others just because they are friends.
And then there is the important matter of kindness. Someone has said, “Kindness is loving people more than they deserve.” That is probably true. Thus, unkindness is treating people worse than they deserve.
During this election season, I wish that our politicians, and their supporters, would only say things that are accurate, fair, and kind. But I guess there is little chance of that happening. Still, we all need to decide on whom to vote for on the basis of a rational evaluation of the positions the candidates take on the important issues of the day. Certainly our votes should never be swayed by inaccurate, unfair, or unkind remarks. And we shouldn’t seek to sway other peoples’ votes by that means either.
Good citizens and people of integrity will try never to be guilty of saying (or passing on) information (or campaign propaganda) that is inaccurate, unfair, or unkind. So let’s pledge that we will seek, as much as possible, to be accurate, fair, and kind in all that we say and do. And let’s encourage our politicians (as well as our friends) to do the same.