“Sticks and stones might break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a children’s chant, a retort to bullies on the playground. Our president uses words to taunt and goad others, frequently name-calling to gain an advantage, regardless of how rude, boorish and childish it is, while ignoring how unfitting it is for a president to act like a grade-schooler.

Recently he stormed out of a meeting, angered because Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi earlier told reporters the president was engaged in a “cover-up.” Trump said he won't work with Democrats until they stop investigating him.

Readers can judge for themselves, and justify if they choose.

Why did Trump’s “creative nickname” for Pelosi end at “Nancy”? There is no “Sleepy Joe, Crooked Hillary, Low IQ Maxine, Little Marco, Cryin’ Chuck, Lyin’ Ted, Low-energy Jeb, Pocahontas…”; just Nancy — because when you stand up to bullies they become speechless and feckless. It’s about who controls the narrative, something Trump has tried to do his entire career.

When narrative trumps truth, we have a tsunami and 2016 was the perfect storm. When priorities are threatened by greed or fueled with hate, the low tide sinks all ships.

As with Nixon, the cover-up may be worse than any actual crime; when someone protests too much, there is usually fire, not just smoke.

The truth will set us free; finding truth can be miserable.

***

Truth-seeking is a constant battle; it doesn’t just set you free, it allows you to become better. Learning happens through missteps, but society often shames us into hiding behind the curtain, rather than encouraging an “aha” moment that shapes and changes us.

Last week found me in a meeting with people I didn’t know. With wine as the backdrop and getting to know each other, the premise and mission, truth bubbled up as conversation progressed.

For some reason, the need to cleanse my soul took over when volunteering info about cheating at “Words with Friends” against a friend of my son, leading to a sleepless night, before confession in the morning. After that, the time I put the transistor radio down my pants at Kings Department Store as a teen. These stories, followed by more discrete disclosures, known as “not my proudest moments,” were shared before the puking stopped.

Afterwards I wondered, “Why share intimate and embarrassing details with strangers?” The answer was it’s not always what you do in the moment that defines you; rather discovery of where your core is that is important.

People screw up, but do they “own it”? If not, either shame or denials fill the space and behaviors don’t change.

Most people keep things close to the vest. Their truth is important but they don’t puke it out. They own it, they learn from it, but it stays private.

Two scenarios; one keeps blemishes inward, try and learn and not repeat. That’s like reading an instruction manual — something I’m terrible at. The other is to purge, without shame, prideful the admission defines you, not the deed.

As I watch our president, it is striking that for many supporters truth doesn’t matter. Our president vests in ALWAYS being right. He NEVER apologizes or owns behaviors while flat-out lying, changing his mind to suit his “today.”

President Jimmy Carter, a true idol and role model, when running for president, told Playboy magazine he had lust. His moral compass was such that he didn’t act on it. He has been married to wife Rosalynn for 72 years, and by all accounts it’s monogamous and loving.

Perhaps purging isn’t the best method, but it can help sort right from wrong.

As I look back to my meeting, luckily it ended before any stories about the squirrel I killed for its foot or the frog that met its demise at my naïve hands. Those events led to the pacifist that has trouble killing a fly.

One of the more profound lessons on truth came when my college friend had a sentimental hat stolen at a bar. Next morning we tracked the thief, five of us converging at his house, knocking until his mother answered.  We demanded to see “Joe.” She woke him and he denied taking the hat. We told him we saw him walk out with it, no uncertainty in our collective voices. We did not know him, but he sensed we weren’t leaving without the hat. He ducked back into the house, emerging with hat and a sheepish look and apology.

In the car, my friend, happily united with his hat, was caustic. Empathy kicking in, I defended the thief saying, “He seemed apologetic.” One mate put it in perspective; he wasn’t sorry he stole the hat, he was sorry he got caught. The difference is profound and defining.

Truth is a slippery slope; I don’t kill meat but I eat it. Hypocrisy: a topic for another day.

“A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser than he was yesterday.” — Alexander Pope, poet (1688-1744)