Originally published on January 4, 2022, on Medium.com.
Have you ever gotten into a book, so much so, that when you look at the clock, three hours have passed, and it’s well past your bedtime? Last week, I finished Jon Krakauer’s Where Men Win Glory. The story details the life of Pat Tillman, the former NFL star turned Army Ranger, who gave his life during the war in Afghanistan. Pat Tillman was a guy that you had to love: confident, hard-working, committed, and determined to serve others, even at the expense of his closest loved ones. He possessed a unique belief system, rooted in both challenging himself (he ran a marathon during an NFL offseason) and serving the greater good (leaving a multimillion dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals to join a bunch of 19-year-old kids at Fort Benning).
But this wasn’t written as a biography. Through thousands of hours of research, the author uncovers some disturbing facts about the nature of Tillman’s death and subsequent cover up by the US Army (and government as a whole). Thus, begging the question: who deserves to know the truth?
A movie from a few years back called Gone Baby Gone details the story of a young girl that goes missing. A detective follows every lead, only to eventually find her at the home of the local police captain. The girl’s mother is part of a local drug ring but yearns to get her daughter back. What should the detective do: leave the girl in her new home, with two loving, supportive parents, or return her to her mother? If you haven’t seen the movie, check it out.
In both these instances, the decision to face the truth becomes complicated based on who you serve. Does a family deserve to know how their son died if the truth threatens the country’s perception of a war? Does a missing child that’s found go back to her mother, regardless of the mother’s capacity to be a parent? Whose decision is that anyway?
There are certainly times when telling the truth isn’t right: when my three-year-old asks if Santa is real, I respond with, “of course he is.” But I’d argue that all of the exceptions have slowly started to become the norm. Everything we see, read, and sometimes interact with (ex: Metaverse) is a version of the truth. It’s not the whole thing, but it’s close enough, and we accept it, because it serves both our (and the presenter’s) interests in a more beneficial way than the simple truth itself. Telling the truth is boring, it’s hard, and it’s often hurtful. But there’s a deep satisfaction in both telling it and receiving it: a conscientious high-five of sorts.
For me, there’s no going backwards, and I’m not going to leave you with a “let’s get back to the way things were.” However, in 2022, let’s all live with more truth, more authenticity, and push a bit harder for the facts. Holding each other, our organizations, and most importantly, ourselves, accountable creates a more ethical, productive, and healthy culture. May this year be your best yet.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
Check out healthy energy drinks from Celsius: