As an educator of 15 years, I know what works and what doesn't in the classroom. I boldly speak the truth and always will.
Lies: They May Start Small Until they Consume All
We’ve all done it. We tell a little “white” lie here and there. We do this for our own good or for the good of others - or so we think. The reasons we lie may often come from a good place in our hearts: we don’t want to hurt others' feelings or to spare them the brutality of truth. Or we lie to protect ourselves and spare ourselves the brutality of truth. We all know some lies can be minute and, in the grand scheme of life, may seem irrelevant. We know some lies are huge and told in desperation, and the compounding consequences can be dire. How do we learn to overcome the urge to lie in both big or small ways and why is this important?
Fleetwood Mac’s song, “Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies...” sums up how we feel when we want flattery - a false narrative of our current situation. The idea is that if one does not really love another, just lie about it! Well..who would really want the foundation of a relationship to be built on shallow flattery and not on substantial truth? Though, I doubt there are many relationships built on flattery. I surmise they really don’t last beyond a few dates. Sadly, some may just “settle” for a second rate relationship. Relationships built on lies eventually erode.
Lies can be little, and deemed as “white.” Is there really such a thing as a pure “white” lie? We may sprinkle these little white lies to others when we want to avoid heartache for ourselves or them. However, truth and honesty could be just what another needs to hear to make positive changes. We often lie to be kind. Consider what the truth could really do for you. Truth is pure. However, I caution you to be gentle with others in exposing the truth.
Sometimes when a friend puts a mirror of truth in my own face, painful as it may be, I realize the error of my own ways. My true friends are bold. They don’t placate me and make excuses for me. Think about it: if someone asks you if he or she looks “too fat” for a particular outfit, it is because deep down, he or she already knows the answer. They just want you to flatter them and... lie. They lead you into a lie. Perhaps, try asking them, “What do you think?” Or, “Do you feel good in the outfit? If not, try another. Choose something that makes you feel your very best tonight.”
Encourage the truth. Help your friends or spouse to really look at themselves and think about how the outfit feels. If not confident, then maybe a bigger one or different style outfit may make the person feel better. No one really wants to step out on the town feeling uncertain. Your lie may only temporarily calm a deeper echo that this is not the ideal outfit. Perhaps another outfit may flatter your friend or spouse. Perhaps just perhaps, a little weight loss might be a good thing. A healthy lifestyle change may help this person lose weight. I’ve never really tried this approach. I hope this works, but be ready to make a run for it if it doesn’t!
I remember my son telling me I was getting “fluffy” one summer while basking by the pool. I chased him clear across the yard! He giggled the whole way! But, I later realized, he was right. I had been snacking excessively. I hadn’t been exercising. He was young and he said what I really needed to hear.
Truth can be awkward, but necessary. I remember getting a haircut. I went with a style much shorter than I wanted because all the other women seemed to be wearing it and it seemed, “cool.” However, on me, it didn’t look or “feel” right. Arriving home feeling insecure knowing deep down this wasn’t my best look, I sauntered indoors all sultry-like, put my foot up on the wall, thrust my hips out, tossed my hair, fluttered my lashes and asked my husband, “So...whatcha think?” He looked at me sideways and said, “Yeah. It looks nice, but it’s pretty short. You look good with it longer.” Acting shocked and hurt, I asked my sons. They also liked it longer. I stormed off. As much as I didn’t really want to hear that. They were right. They know me. I have to consider the source: my family loves me and wants me to be, feel, and look my best. My husband is the man I want to look my best for. This cropped and chopped “do” was just not “doing it” for him. They love me for me, regardless of what new fashion trend I experiment with. Thank goodness, hair grows back. Sometimes I wish it would grow back faster!
Words as Unintended Weapons:
Getting back to spoken words, it is only true and brave friends who shine the “light of truth” in my eyes. They explain how my words might hurt others. They tell me when I’m wrong. I may get angry or upset with this sudden insight, but then they council me. Their loving insight forces me to look at situations differently and forces me to re-evaluate my behavior. Often friends can offer object vantage points that we, in the midst of strife don’t have. When angered or in disagreement, I know immediately and instinctively when I have overstepped my bounds. It feels...bad. Uncertain about my words or actions, I might explain the situation to a friend. Garner his or her support! Rally the troops to defend and justify me! What I think I need is for someone to smooth it over and justify my words or actions. What I really need is the truth. Only my truest friends are those who tell me where I went wrong and force me to look differently at the situation and consider the fact that maybe, just maybe, I was the one in the wrong. It takes a true friend to say it, and a true friend to receive it. This honest insight allows me the opportunity to reflect, explain where I went wrong to the other party involved, and ...perhaps apologize for my wrongdoing. Seeking justification from another or asking another to lie to us really doesn’t offer an opportunity for truth, reflection and perhaps change. Like family, true friends, want you to be your best. They often help you get there. Appreciate friends and family who aren’t afraid to point out your flaws from time to time. Maybe you need to see them yourself and...change.
What the Habit of Telling Those Little White Lies Can Lead to…
Suppose you tell one little lie to excuse your behavior or to get out of doing something. That may serve you well, at the moment. You may think you've fooled others with a lavish and intricate excuse. This is not always the case. People often “sense” when they are being lied to. Most will let it go and give you the benefit of the doubt a few times. However, when lies and excuses add up, a bigger darker picture emerges. The recipient of these constant excuses and lies will eventually feel unwanted, unworthy of your time, and “unfriended.” Something else is more important to the liar. Only the liar knows what it is. Over time, the liar falls into a habit of lying. Eventually, all those little “white” lies morph and become one entire life lived as a lie. Those who have been lied to, become frustrated and angered that they are taken for fools. Former friends or even family members, deem the habitual liar as untrustworthy. Even worse, the liar thinks recipients take their words as truth. Now the recipients feel cheated. Their intelligence undermined. Call the liar out - gently of course.
If one considers risking the loss of trust from others as a better option than telling the truth, one should ask, “Why?” The impetus of a lie is for self-preservation or to “cover-up” truth. What is the truth? What is being covered up from a lie? In order to address this deep truth and the very reason for lying, one needs to come face to face with reality. The bottom line, rarely are others fooled by a liar. Eventually, people may just walk away. Is this what the liar really wants? Perhaps in the short term.
In the long term, many broken and lost relationships may result. If you find yourself idling lying, even when unwarranted, pause. Telling lies should not come so easy. A lie should create a level of discomfort within us. We know, “Thou shalt not lie.” Desensitized, the inner conflict may dissipate in the chronic liar. One can easily fall into the habit of lying so often that even simple truths can be difficult to express. The liar, so in tune to these habits, loses the remorse for lying. It becomes second nature to lie often. The recipients will likely never be able to discern what is the truth from lie.
There are times we all want to be heard loud and clear. We’ll want people to believe us, because we are telling the truth, but will anyone be listening if life was lived with a litany of lies? Reflect on the classic tale, “Never Cry, Wolf.” It can happen. Those who have been lied to, time and again, just shake their heads in disbelief even when the truth is told in earnest.
Be Strong and Speak the Truth:
It takes intense courage to admit the truth to yourself and others. It takes character. Freedom can come from the truth - we know this. How unburdening it is to FINALLY admit fault and expose reality. Perhaps, help can come along. Help can heal the very dark spot that was excused and lied about so much. Try truth! Every time. It will make you feel better and restore trust.
So When Faced with the Quandary of Truth or Lie, Choose Truth:
Tell the truth. Carefully, lovingly and honestly. Instead of saying you won’t go out with friends because you need to, “Wash your cat.” Try instead, “I’m really sorry, but I had a long, hard day and I’m just wiped out. Perhaps we can reschedule.” You’d be surprised how much better honesty is for you and others. We can relate. We’ve all known that kind of feeling. No lie needed.
If you feel that you perpetually lie to avoid people or social situations, dig deep. What is the reason? Do a little self-discovery. If it is a phobia, get some help. Practice with small social steps taken time and again will help you broaden your world and quality of life. Challenge yourself to get out there. Find the courage to engage. If a destructive behavior or addiction is the excuse, get help for that. No one has to break the chains of abuse or addiction alone. Refuse to let abuse or addiction continue to hurt you and those around you. Refuse to lie to cover it up another day.
Someone once said to me, if you’re doing something in secret that you wouldn’t want to be printed on the front page of a newspaper, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. If what you are doing is so shameful to you or others and you feel compelled to lie, then...stop doing it! Make today a new day! Be honest with yourself and others. Tell the truth, one person, one situation at a time. Be conscious of when you are lying and stop yourself from doing so. Great conversations and support can come from exposing the truth with what we struggle with in life: weight, addiction, fear, etc. Just try to tell the truth! Be a true friend. Let the truth prevail.
~Amanda Allison, M.Ed.