Regardless of a person’s moral center, a mature person has times when they wonder if they’re centered correctly on truth. Knowing where you’re at is valuable and gives an inner peace.
First a story.
I used to teach survival training for the US Air Force in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. This included night and day navigation skills. If you’re hiking across several kilometers and have to end up at a certain road crossing a stream, one of the bad things that can happen is that you arrive at the road and find no river. Which way would you turn? Left or right? If you were hiking directly toward the goal, there’s no way to know which way the error occurred. One way out of this dilemma is to aim a little bit to the left or right of the target. That way, when you hit the road, you’ll know to turn left or right.
The same idea applies when doing old time heading-distance air navigation to a small island target. Aim a little bit to the side of it. Then when you have flown the right distance, you don’t have to do the 50:50 guess as to which way to turn. Instead, you’ll know on which side the island lies before you turn to find it.
Switching back to moral issues, I can’t bring myself to recommend on-purpose deviation from a path directly toward truth. However, there is another way to get off the direct course — if you’re pushed. Here is one example from my past.
I used to do private contract work for a company and after many hours of work, they owed me a significant amount of money. They stopped meeting payment deadlines, and the payments started to dry up. Calling up the management chain over the course of a week or two, I spoke with the supervisor, division lead, finance office, CFO, COO, and eventually the CEO. Promises were made. I spoke with a lawyer. A few dollars were paid. I was encouraged to wait for just a little bit longer. I found myself looking for the proverbial intersection of the road and the stream. Which way should I go? Should I pursue legal action, or should I trust them to follow through? This was the question of right or wrong(ed) for me.
Finally, during a second phone call with the CEO, I realized the situation had drifted far from whatever the “right answer” really was. When queried about a plan to pay me the several thousand dollars that were owed, the CEO, MattG, said, “Well, it appears that this contract has finished. We don’t envision using your services in the future, so I don’t believe it’s in our business interest to pay you.” (click). Yes, he hung up on me. At that point, I had zero doubt that I was closer to right than he was. I knew which way truth was.
I never did get paid the money I was owed. However, I received something even more valuable: clear moral standing and a clear spirit knowing where truth is – to my left or to my right. I no longer wondered if I had done something wrong, maybe billed incorrectly, or confused communication, or misrepresented my work.
Nothing takes away the sting of being wronged. Sometimes there is no way to make it right. For me, my training ground for the rest of life was the contract situation related above. If you find yourself in a similar position, don’t overlook the value of knowing truth. The more you’ve been wronged, the more you can be confident you know the truth.