The most important aspect of building a solid house is how you construct the foundation. Educated as a structural engineer, I learned that a house will never stand for long if built on shallow sand. I can say the same for every relationship, to be successful, they must be founded on a foundation of mutual trust. If we created them on falsehood and deceit, they will collapse.
We are all guilty of being dishonest. We lie about our age, weight, or why we are late. We cheat on our taxes or on our spouses. We embellish our experience and education on our resumes. Lying is so common in our culture that many judge it to be acceptable. We even use the term “white lie” to excuse minor falsehoods we deem unimportant.
Is there good reason to hide the truth from others?
Many argue there is good reason to hide the truth. Lying can help convince a prospective boss you meet all the qualifications so he can give you the job you want. Fudging your age can make people think you are younger and help get you a job or a date. The list of justifications goes on.
We teach our kids to lie
We manipulate our children. For example, we tell them they must behave if they want Santa Claus to bring them Christmas presents. We might hide from them the real reason why we lost our job, or why we divorced, or that grandpa is an alcoholic.
It was easy for me to justify withholding the truth from my children when they were small. I considered it a matter of being conscious of what their young minds could process. But I didn’t realize that making up excuses was something they saw through at some internal level.
Speaking truth to our kids
While you can overwhelm a child with details they don’t understand, speaking the truth to your kids is still very important. There is no point describing why you got laid you off because your boss was an asshole, took all the credit for your ideas but then stabbed you in the back to your superiors. Sharing adult details to your children of why things happened is like telling them how to make the watch when all they wanted to know was the time.
Children need assurance that the adults will take care of the problems. In the aforementioned incident, you can tell them you are out of a job because the company didn’t need you anymore and then assure them that everything will be ok.
Why do we lie?
Lying is of the ego, it is meant manipulate the opinion others have about us. I try to always be truthful, but I find myself sometimes embellishing stories to get the admiration. My fear is that my true self is not enough and people will reject, ridicule or scorn me if they see the true me. For all of us, lying is about believing we are unworthy of love and admiration. We see our shortcomings and believe people will reject us if they notice them.
But seeing yourself as unworthy is a dangerous illusion. Unfortunately, very few of our mentors taught us to view ourselves as unique beings with value and purpose. Many taught us what they learned, to conform to the opinions and rules of our society.
Ways that we lie
We have become used to falsehoods as a society, so lying can take many forms. Here are a few.
1) White lies.
These are the “acceptable” lies we tell others. For example, it was traffic that made us late, no need to tell others about our bad habit of leaving everything to the last minute.
These are the lies we spread to our friends and acquaintances about others. The juicier the lie, the more it tempts us to spread it even though we have no proof of its veracity.
We exaggerate our work experience, a life story and/or our talents to create a greater picture of ourselves in the minds of others.
This kind of lie we attribute to politicians who need to obfuscate their position on issues to attract more voters from all sides of the political spectrum. We call this good politics even though we know the undercurrent of deceit behind it. Politicians are not alone in this, we spin our beliefs to make them sound more acceptable to others, especially by those who disagree with us.
5) Discrediting and criticizing others.
This is a great tool to devalue the contribution others make, especially if we are jealous or threatened by them. I see this in the workplace between rivals as they try to maneuver into favorable positions in the eyes of their superiors. However, this is not limited to the workplace, it can happen between friends and family members.
6) The lies we tell ourselves.
This if by far our worst form of lying. We tell ourselves lies to justify our actions. We use them to hide our malice with an acceptable explanation. We tell ourselves lies to justify the reasons we tell white lies, engage in rumors, exaggerate stories, spin and discredit or criticize others.
We all have our own lie detector, even our kids
Everyone knows at some level when someone is lying to us. However, we accept their lies because we don’t want to face that this person we like so well is not who we think they are. This can happen with a romantic partner, a boss, a parent, a sibling and a friend. When I think back on the times I discovered the real truth behind a lie someone was telling me, I realize had known all along I was being led by a lie.
Even the youngest of children can tell when someone is lying to them, but it doesn’t appear to them as a lie, they experience it as an insecurity or as anxiety.
Being truthful seems hard, but it is by far your best option. Even the smallest lie casts doubt on your credibility. Lies are the grains of sand that can cause a great house to collapse.
As always, wishing you a life filled with joy, love and serenity.