“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” – Mark Twain
“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” – Abraham Lincoln
Is lying a case of “fiction addiction”? Since the idea of alternative facts and living in a post-truth world have been in the headlines of late, it seemed a good time to explore this topic.
The Origin of Lying
Think about the first lie documented in spiritual texts. In the Old Testament, Adam and Eve were told by God that if they ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would die. They ate, they lived. When asked if they had munched on the apple which had them hiding their nakedness (which may be a metaphor for being revealed and vulnerable psychologically as well), Adam passed the buck to Eve who he said tempted him to eat the fruit. Eve then blamed the serpent for tricking her. The truth is each of the players made choices and the chain of events proceeded. Wondering if the tree was planted in plain sight so that Adam and Eve could be tested or beckoned. Consider that many people succumb to the temptation that is deliberately placed before them and expected to refrain from indulging. This is not meant to be offensive to anyone’s spiritual beliefs, but rather an assessment of a written tale.
Why we lie can vary from person to person.
Fear of repercussion
Desire to look more impressive
Wanting to fit into a specific social norm or group
Belief that it will get us what we want
Covering over inappropriate behaviors
Creating a persona
Seeing what can be gotten away with
Wanting reality to be different than it is
Testing relationship boundaries
One-up-manship (can you top this?)
Rebellion against authority
Biding time until a justification or defense can be created
A passive-aggressive way of speaking up
Denying responsibility for choices
Compulsion to hold power over another
Knowledge is power. When we are the keeper of information, we seem to hold power over another. Consider a partner who is unfaithful. He or she is aware of breaking the agreement of monogamy and may experience a sense of guilt and remorse. When asked if infidelity has taken place, an instinctive reaction may be to lie to cover those emotional states, protect what they fear to lose in the initial relationship or the new one. By withholding the truth, that imbalance of power can be maintained.
Set a good example. If you expect honest interaction with those in your life, it is important to be in integrity. The first of The Four Agreements, written by don Miguel Ruiz highlights the value of speaking truth.
“Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.”
Make your relationships a safe place for honesty. If someone tells you the truth, how do you respond? Do you accept their feelings or dismiss them? Is there room for a difference in perspective or do people need to agree with you to keep the peace?