18-year-old Matthew Scheidt wasn’t a board-certified surgeon, but, according to Florida authorities, he acquired a medical badge via a clerical error and spent several days posing as a doctor’s assistant and treating patients at Osceola Regional Medical Center during August of 2011.
The kicker? He was only 17 at the time.
On top of the first precept of “do no harm,” the Buddhist precept of truthfulness is very difficult. Some take truthfulness as the single most important precept quality. And if one looks deeply, there are four guidelines of wiser speech: truthfulness, helpfulness, kindness and appropriateness.
I would venture to say that most of us struggle with truthfulness. In taking truthfulness as a guideline, I myself have noticed the subtle ways in which I am not truthful. In business, as in our personal lives, there are many nuanced ways in which we are not being truthful. They always seem to many so-called gray areas.
But how about white lies? For instance, do we not lie by telling a child of Santa Clause? Is the Easter Bunny real? How about the tooth fairy? Some claim ‘white-lies’ used in towards a child’s pleasure and are not in fact all that harmful. However, for adults, spouse-to-spouse, manager to employee, it is best to avoid lying during day-to-day conversations. More so, we should be factually accurate.
But truth also requires being kind. Thus, while I have found some words were very truthful, others may have tended to label me an asshole. In earlier years, I have lied to sustain an image, make a point, to expose someone and to avoid doing something. Sometimes, I have not been truthful to even myself, including certain truths about myself, my relationships and intentions. Being completely transparent, there were many times in my life when I was a complete dipstick. And eventually this untruthfulness cost me the love of my life, for I never see her again. I will never caress her hair or kiss her lips.
So while people like me and Mr. Scheidt may have intended to be truthful we got lost along the way. Albeit, it is very important to articulate that speech must be kind and compassionate. In part, not harming ourselves or others is an essential prerequisite. Honest words create deep intimacy, a profound sense of love and self-knowledge.
Unlike Mr. Scheidt, I never played doctor, never performed a medical procedure to which I wasn’t trained. And now, at least in this world, there is no one single place without memory. Thus, like me, Mr. Scheidt’s life will be impacted forevermore by simply discarding the simple moments of integrity.
As a Buddhist practitioner, when the truth suffers, true communication suffers. We must always realize the depth and abuse caused by simple and thoughtless speech. As such, a proper mind is crucial for self-transformation and transformation of society. We, as in the singular ‘I,’ are not the center of the universe. If we are honest to ourselves, the rest will follow.
Without truthfulness, there can be no society. Without society, there can be no love. Without love, there can be no forgiveness.
So today, I ask everyone, have you acted out of love?