ISSUES OF FAITH: Be a bastion of truth against the onslaught of lies

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” — Mark Twain.

IT HAS BEEN distressing to see the level of lying and deception being normalized in our society, especially amongst those espousing devotion to God. I’ve talked about the topic of lies often, and decided to revise and edit a column written more than six years ago.

Sadly, it is even more relevant today.

The Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah teaches us that every word, even every thought, has a ripple effect in the world.

We may not know how or when, but our words can have an impact in powerful ways. A kindness extended to someone may be the first shown to them in a long time and could bring them great comfort, even changing their life.

Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. Hatred and lies have their own ripple effect, and when people are manipulated by fear and anger, they feel they have license to hate.

Rage is easily incited and no amount of logic or reason can reach a person who is seething with anger over imagined insults. Facts no longer matter, and the desire to lash out becomes paramount. If someone is in a group, they feel an even stronger sense of legitimacy and justification for their anger.

The rapid spread of lies and conspiracy theories through social media compounds the problem. It’s easier to believe what supports one’s own views, without ascertaining if the source is reputable.

In this environment, Mark Twain’s words are important, “The truth has no defense against a fool determined to believe a lie.”

When lies and hatred become normalized, even good, compassionate people can decide that the ends justify the means, and “winning” becomes most important, causing irreparable harm to others and society. Leaders can decide that maintaining power is more important than standing up to lies. We see this today as an increasing number of those daring to speak the truth lose their positions and are threatened with violence.

Philosophers and religious leaders have long warned about the power of lies.

Avraham ibn Hadai, a Jewish, 11th century Spanish philosopher, physician and political figure, warned people of faith and integrity to avoid deception: “Prefer death to a lying word, for the ripple-effect of its plunder is worse. When a man dies, he dies alone, but many are slain with the lie and its curse”

Indeed, Hitler’s words are an ominous reminder of the power of lies: “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

We are living in a “post truth” world and do so at our peril.

Our society is in grave danger when scientific evidence, fact-based education and seeking for the truth make us uncomfortable, so we ignore the facts and allow lies to become the norm.

All faith traditions warn us to avoid bearing false witness. The Buddhist Eightfold Path and the Ten Commandments of Judaism, Christianity and Islam all stress the importance of honesty. The Talmud teaches that truth is the very foundation of the world, and when falsehoods are spread, we are nudging at that very foundation.

We must have the courage to stand up for truth and not remain silent when hatred and deceit are accepted as the lens through which we view the world.

This is important not only in our everyday lives, but also when choosing our leaders. We must be less concerned with “winners” and more with who has the compassion, empathy, honesty and integrity to lead wisely.

May we follow the lesson of the great Jewish philosopher Maimonides (1135-1204): “Let the truth and right by which you are apparently the loser be preferable to you to the falsehood and wrong by which you are apparently the gainer.“

Kein yehi ratzon … May it be God’s will. Shalom.


Issues of Faith is a rotating column by religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Suzanne DeBey is a lay leader of the Port Angeles Jewish community. Her email is

More in Life

A GROWING CONCERN: Do your part for ‘Flower Peninsula USA’

SO, WITH THE sun coming out and temperatures on the rise, time… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: When do we disobey?

HERE ARE TWO quotes to think about: “Civil Disobedience, noun: Refusal to… Continue reading

Unity in Olympics program scheduled

Connie Munro will present “Not Perfect, But Wonderful” at… Continue reading

Unitarian speaker scheduled

The Rev. Bruce Bode will present “The Ache of… Continue reading

The Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith.
Unity in Port Townsend planning for Sunday services

The Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith will present “The Power of… Continue reading

Katie Lee of Port Angeles examines a table of perennial plants during Saturday’s annual plant sale and raffle at the floral barn at the Clallam County Fairgrounds in Port Angeles. The sale, hosted by the Port Angeles Garden Club, was a fundraiser for club projects and scholarships, and it featured a wide variety of plants for the upcoming growing season and beyond. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Plant sale at Clallam County Fairgrounds

Katie Lee of Port Angeles examines a table of perennial plants during… Continue reading

Photo by Karen Griffiths

Cutline: A fundraiser for WAG and Open starts Today at 11 a.m. with an English and jumping fun show, followed tomorrow with a Western Games show at Kari Payne’s 4-L arena off Blue Mountain Road, 95 S. McCrorie Rd. Port Angeles.  Fox-Bell Farm owner Shelby Vaughan, and her assistants Sophie Feik and Kaia Lestage (holding Marley) will be there to host. Shown is Tatar Trots, 10. a horse Shelby got from OPEN five years ago when he was a feral, unhandled stallion and, now, after castrating and training,  he’s a docile horse who enjoys teaching kids how to ride.


(Rescue dog Rocky laying down if he’s shown in photo)
HORSEPLAY: Rescue program gives horses new life

SHELBY VAUGHAN WAS born into the rescue mindset. She grew up on… Continue reading

A GROWING CONCERN: For garden chores, keep the spring in your step

SO THE DREAM Playground build is going wonderfully. Thank you for those… Continue reading

The 2024 Community Service Awards winners gather before Thursday's awards ceremony at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. This year's recipients were, seated from left, Steph Ellyas and Lyn Fiveash, and standing from left, Gordon Taylor, Don Zanon, Carol Labbe and Betsy Reed Schultz. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Six honored for community service efforts

Volunteers provide energy for trails, respite care

ISSUES OF FAITH: Be a gracious and hospitable host

NOTICE OUR ROAD traffic is getting busier? Yep. We are beginning our… Continue reading

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “Love God and Tie up your Camel” at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Schellink is the guest speaker at Unity in the Olympics, 2917 E. Myrtle Ave.
Weekend program scheduled for Unity in the Olympics

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “Love God and… Continue reading

Unitarian speaker slated in Port Angeles

Phoenix Biggs will present “Singing of Honor… Continue reading