I noticed a story in the paper this week about a person who left his job. The reasons given for him leaving were not accurate. I know that because I know the person and the situation. They were, in fact, a lie. Because that's what we do anymore.
My golfing buddy this past summer and I used to talk about this a lot as we played. On the one hand, as I wrote last week, the only truth we accept anymore is our own truth, whether it's supported by the facts and the evidence or not.
On the other hand, lying has become just as common as holding on to false truths. We lie to avoid embarrassing ourselves, we lie to make ourselves look better, we lie to avoid conflict, we lie, lie, lie.
What's more, this doesn't seem troubling to a lot of people. It must not be because people turn in press releases to the media knowing full well what they're saying isn't the truth. People you've known for years; your friends and even your spouses, look you in the eye and tell you something that you know for a fact isn't the truth. If it ISN'T the truth, it's a lie.
I've always asked my students if they think there's a difference between a "little white lie" and a "big lie" and they almost always get it right. A lie is a lie they say. You're either being honest or you're being dishonest they say. You're either telling the truth or you're not, they say.
We all share a social contract with each other and part of that contract suggests that we must be able to trust each other if we truly hope to build a relationship because the foundation of EVERY relationship is honesty. That makes sense to most people I think but the problem is, far too many people don't do it. Multi-million dollar deals a generation ago were sealed with a handshake, not a credit check. You looked into the other person's eye, gave them a solid handshake, and told them what you would do. That was not only your promise, it was your reputation; it was who you were.
But today, we have to produce multiple forms of identification just to cash a check because people don't believe us anymore. Our word isn't our bond anymore. We don't trust each other anymore and we think someone's always trying to get one over on us. And the reason why we do this and think this is because of the big ugly lie.
Friends don't trust their friends. Spouses don't trust their spouses. Businessmen don't trust their colleagues because lying has become an integral part of our cultural dynamic. We'll tell someone else anything they want to hear if it will make our lot in life better or easier even when there may not be a shred of truth to it.
We tell lies about our elected officials, things we KNOW are lies and yet we tell them anyhow in order to solidify our base and demonize those who don't think like we do. We tell lies to people we love, cherish and care about, not because we're trying to ease their burden but because we're trying to ease our own.
We've all fallen into this trap, me included. I've lied before because at the time, it seemed like it was the easiest way out of a tough situation but it never was. It never was because our lies always catch up with us. They catch up with us because we can't tell just one lie. We have to tell another one to cover up the first one and then another one and another one until it all comes crashing down on our heads and there's no way out but to tell the truth. And if we had just told the truth to begin with, the consequences wouldn't have been nearly as dire as they turned out to be because people can deal with the truth, no matter how harsh it sometimes is. But no one can deal with a lie.
Telling the truth is so simple, even though it might be painful at the time. Because when we tell the truth we don't have to tell additional lies to cover up the first lie. We don't have to remember what we said so we can keep our stories straight. We don't have to go to bed at night feeling guilty about lying. And, most importantly, we don't get into such a habit of lying that eventually no one believes anything we say.
When we're talking about having meaningful, intimate relationships with other people, the best thing they can ever say about us is that they've heard our side of the story and they believe us because they've never known us to lie about anything.
Can you say that about yourself?