Last month, while jogging on my treadmill, I was watching Meet the Press. In his interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, I heard former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani say — to my disbelief — “Truth isn’t truth.”
The notion that the legal counsel to the President of the United States could assert such a thing exploded in my brain, and I missed a step. The treadmill pitched my stunned body backward into a brick wall. Luckily, I didn’t suffer any major injuries.
In truth, I would be hard-pressed to say which was more painful, striking the bricks or the mercurial emotional blitzkrieg initiated by a statement in direct conflict to my unswerving commitment to the truth. My gosh, the concept is even emblazoned on the crest of Adelphi University (my alma mater), “The truth shall make us free.”
Giuliani later tried to clarify his comments via Twitter, saying that his statement wasn’t “meant as a pontification on moral theology,” but referred to situations in which people who profess to be telling the truth make contradictory statements.
To be sure, truth can be challenging to attain — especially when there are those who are quick to dismiss negative accounts as “fake news” and claim provably false statements are not lies but rather “alternative facts.”
Nevertheless, we should not give up on struggling to discover truth, understand truth, and include truthfulness as an obligation of a life well lived.
As I pondered the meaning of truth, one week after Giuliani’s startling proclamation, the distinguished and remarkable diplomat, Senator John McCain, passed away.
Senator McCain never abandoned decency and truth throughout a life spent in service to his country. If Senator McCain could soar above others, so can we!
Undoubtedly, it is essential to be truthful with our patients concerning their diagnoses, prognoses, and any need for surgical intervention. Undoubtedly, we must run our surgery centers scrupulously, observing the conditions for coverage required by CMS. Undoubtedly, we must be trustworthy to our spouses and families.
Consider the wisdom of Yoda from Star Wars when it comes to telling the truth: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
Each of us possesses a fundamental moral core. As successful physicians, having achieved proficiency in our professional life, we have an ethical dictate to seek out and articulate the truth. There is no try.
In the immortal words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Love and truth are two sides of the same coin.” ■