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Everyday We Lie

At some point when I was much younger (I don’t remember exactly when) I did something bad and tried to lie to my parents to get out of trouble.  It doesn’t really matter what I did; it was probably something small, like not cleaning my room or whatever.  When I was found out, my punishment was made more severe because I had lied.  My father in particular took exception to being lied to, and I was warned that in the future I should always tell the truth, because the punishment would always be made far, far worse for lying.

At some later point in time I did something bad again, but this time I tried a smaller lie so as to not get in quite as much trouble.  It wasn’t all that bad, I had told myself, because I would be getting punished.  I would just be mitigating how much punishment I got.  The lie had worked and the punishment wasn’t very bad…until I was of course eventually found out.  As promised the punishment was made far, far worse and I’m sure that I received another lecture.  I was told once again that lying was wrong, and telling the truth is always best.  I would still be punished if I told the truth, they said, but not as badly.

Time went on with me getting into more trouble over little things, stuff that I generally was caught while doing so it would make no sense lying.  Then I did something bad again that I wanted to lie about…but this time I didn’t.  I stood straight, looked my father in the eyes, and told them what I did.  My father looked sad that he had to punish me, but if I remember correctly he looked proud that I had told the truth.  I was punished, of course, but the punishment was one that was quickly over.  I had finally learned.

As a teenager I found wisdom in using truth.  My parents always had to work hard to keep track of my brother, but for me that wasn’t the case.  I always tried to be where I said I was going to be, and if something changed I always tried to let someone know if I could (this being before cell phones were common).  I was not the perfect kid by any stretch of the imagination, but at least they could trust me because I would tell them the truth, and since the trust was there I was allowed a lot more freedom.  Trust is, at its core, based on believing what another person tells you.  That freedom also allowed me to give more vague answers to where I was going (generally because I was meeting friends and didn’t quite know myself), because my parents knew that if they asked a direct question I would give them the direct truth.

Note that, though: if asked a direct question.  It had been nailed into my head that lying iswrong.  I wasn’t to speak an untruth.  However, I did not have to speak the whole truth all of the time, or, to put it bluntly, I could just keep my mouth shut.  This became important especially around my friends.  Because of certain circumstances I became known as someone who wouldn’t lie, but at the same time I became someone who was a confidant.  It can be a terrible thing to know something, to have someone else know you know “something”, and for them to ask a direct question.  When I found myself in a situation where I couldn’t tell the truth, I quickly became proficient at either redirecting the conversation or, failing that, shutting down until the person stopped asking.  But more often than not if asked a direct question I gave the direct truth, regardless of the consequence.  It is wrong to lie.

But nearly everyday I lie.  And I bet you do, too.

Oh, they aren’t “big” lies, not most of the time.  Most of the time you could say they are even quite socially acceptable.  The majority of them I do without thinking.  How?  Let me give you an example.  On the way out to lunch as well as at lunch, I was probably asked at least 2 or 3 times how am I.  Each time I rattled off the answer “fine” or “good, thank you”.  This morning I went to the dentist.  Each person I ran into, from the receptionist to the dentist himself, asked how I was doing and chatted with me.  Each time I responded that everything was fine/good and chatted back.

I’m not fine right now.  There can be no mistaking that.  Neither am I good.  I will not get into the reasons why; that is not the point of this post, and frankly I do not wish to air the reasons to the internet.  But each time I said that I was fine I was flat out lying.  I was raised to value the truth, to tell it despite the consequences.  But I lied.  And…I will likely do it again.  Why?

Because sometimes people don’t want to know the truth.  They want you to lie.  Inside some of them are yearning for you to lie, because if you don’t your problems suddenly become part of their life.  The coworker in the elevator chatting with me, he doesn’t really want to know what’s going on with me.  Once out of the elevator I will be forgotten; heck, he may have been thinking of something else entirely while he was talking to me.  Why do I think that?  Because I’ve done the same thing.  Is it right that society is this way?  I don’t know. I know it’s not going to change anytime soon.

You might be asking yourself if that’s all this post is about, the little lies of “polite” conversation.  No, there is another category I’m guilty of, and probably you as well.

It’s the category of lies we tell ourselves.

No lie can be stronger than one we tell to ourself.  Who is there to refute it?  Oh, I’m not talking about the small lies we can spot in an instant, something like “one more piece of cake” etc.  No, I’m talking about the deep down lies, the ones we want to believe.  And we really want to believe it, yes.  Some emotion, some feeling, some want, some pain. We will want something to be some way so much that will tell ourselves nearly anything to make it so.  It could be anything.  It could be something solid or insubstantial.  It could be real or imagined.  It could be a positive thought or a negative one.  Hope, fear, either way it’s one that we want to believe.

Or maybe no.  We really don’t want to believe it.  Some emotion, some feeling, some want, some pain.  We will want so much to not believe something can exist that we will tell ourselves anything to make it not be.  Again, it could be anything.  Hope, fear, either way it’s one that we don’t want to believe.

As I mentioned above, trust, at its core, is based on believing what you are told, to believe an action or what is said is true.  So what happens when you suspect that you have been lying to yourself?  What happens when you don’t know if you can trust yourself?  How do you find out what is true?  How do you regain that trust?  When you are dealing with someone else that you have lost trust with, the only answer I know is time.  With time and effort trust with another can be eventually regained, though it can be a long process riddled with doubts.  Perhaps it is the same with yourself?  That all you need is time and effort?

Or is that another lie…


{ 2 } Comments

  1. Sara | August 30, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    As someone who’s relatively recently realized that she can’t always trust her own inner monologue (see: depression) and been working on it (see: therapy): Time and work. Just as with anyone else. My situation is very different from yours, but the same principles of getting through it apply, I think. It’s not going to go away on its own, but it’s an obstacle that can be eroded and eventually removed.

    The other thing is that just as with anyone else, it also involves honesty. The important thing to remember about *that* is that you have to be honest about the good stuff, not just the bad stuff. Don’t just chastise yourself for the deciet; remember to praise yourself for your good deeds and positive, healthy choices, too.

  2. Jess | August 31, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I wonder if sometimes lying to ourselves is a necessary evil. A way for our brain to help us work through something we may not be able to completely deal with emotionally yet. Does that make me sound cowardly? Hm. I do think it happens to all to a varying degree. The key is that you realize it’s happening and it may be a problem. That in and of itself is a good thing

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