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I hate lying, and still, I find myself lying a lot.
Many times I feel I have to lie. But do I?
And what are the consequences of lying? Is there a price to pay for not being able, or daring, to tell the truth? Who would I be without all these lies? What would our world be like if all of us dared to say the truth more often?
Truth has become an unbearable societal burden.
I was prompted with these questions while watching a Netflix series, “Atypical.” Sam, the main character, is a typical, small-town high school student, with a tiny difference: he is a highly functional autistic young man. He is brilliant, but he has one big problem: he doesn’t understand social conventions.
So he always tells the truth.
The result is: lots of embarrassed smiles, frowning, cross-eyed looking or looking away, or worse, pity smiles. And this struck me—since when has the truth become so uncomfortable, almost unbearable? Because these movie scenes are not far from real life!
Lying has become a social norm.
The truth is we lie a lot. We lie because we don’t want to hurt others. We lie to fit in and belong because the truth makes us vulnerable, and we lie for so many other reasons. Avoiding the truth has become a social norm.
I used to lie to my mother because I thought she could not handle the truth every time she asked me, “Mihaela, how much longer do you intend to stay in Africa?” I would answer, “I am not sure, until the end of this year probably.” When the end of the year came, and she would ask me again the same question, I felt anger rising in my body because I felt pressured. Finally, one day I answered her, “Mother, I don’t know exactly how long, but most probably I will stay a few more years. I will come to visit you as often as possible. And you know what, I am happy there.”
“If you are happy, then am I happy too,” she replied. Something changed between us since then—more acceptance, more love expressed.
Neuroscientist and best-selling author, Sam Harris, writes, “Many of us spend our lives marching with open eyes toward remorse, regret, guilt, and disappointment. And nowhere do our injuries seem more casually self-inflicted, or the suffering we create more disproportionate to the needs of the moment than in the lies we tell to other human beings.”
Liars make us angry.
The majority of us, if not all of us, resent liars. I think it is because we don’t like to be lied to. No matter how horrifying the truth, I think most of us prefer to know the truth. When we know the truth, we have the impression that we are in control, at least partially. We feel cheated on, taken advantage of when others lie to us. We resent politicians because they tend to distort the truth.
The multitude of conspiracy theories around the COVID-19 pandemic is a symptom of an untruthful society. People long for the truth; they beg for the truth. People are ready to go a long way and stretch their minds on what is possible out of the desire to reject the “truth” of the governing bodies they no longer believe in.
The refusal of a vaccine that could end this crisis and allow us to resume our life like before is another symptom of people not trusting the decision-makers.
Lying disconnects us from ourselves and from the life we were meant to live.
Most frustrating is that many times the person we are lying to is ourselves. We often lie that we are not enough and pretend to be someone better; we lie that tomorrow we will start dieting and exercising; we lie that tomorrow we will be happier.
The biggest lie we tell ourselves is that we are immortal, and we will never die. So we spend our lives accumulating things, as if we’re going to be on Earth for all of eternity, instead of appreciating life experiences which is, in my opinion, the only real true meaning of life.
But lying consumes a lot of our energy, disconnects us from ourselves and others, and kills our beauty and creativity. It stops us from fully experiencing the life we were meant to live, with all its flavors and colors, sadness and grief, joy and excitement—all that, because we have a particular idea of how our life should be and will do anything to get it, including lying.
Let’s dare ourselves to tell the truth more often.
I am not saying that we should wake up tomorrow and embrace absolute truth; I must admit this scares me a great deal.
However, we could start by observing and acknowledging those parts of ourselves that we like less, being with them for the moment, and learning to accept them (even if we cannot change them) instead of pushing them under the carpet.
Let’s dare to choose one or more persons we feel safe with and commit to telling them one small truth every day instead of the usual lie.
It is amazing the impact it can have on us and our relationships when we start being more direct and truthful.
In his book “Radical Honesty,” Brad Blanton, Ph.D., writes, “When you tell the truth, you are free simply by virtue of describing what is so. This descriptive language evokes a feeling of affirmation, a willingness to be, an appreciation for being alive in the world as it is.”
“The truth will set you free!” ~ John, 8:32.
In truth, we feel lighter and more alive. Having been enmeshed in lying for so long, telling the truth will not come easy. But we owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to others to start and tell the truth if we want to build a better world, one where we feel free, loved, and accepted as we are.