Last week I did something I wasn’t proud of. And even worse, I was called out on it. I lied. It was a small lie, one that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things… I gave a friend some sunglasses that were given to me, told her not to say where she had gotten them, and lied to get another pair. I did it because I knew I could. Instead of just asking for another pair of sunglasses, I lied saying that mine broke. The friend I gave my other pair to was seen wearing the sunglasses the day after. When asked where she got them, she said I gave them to her.
I’m not of the belief that “no good deed goes unpunished,” however it sometimes reigns true. This article isn’t about being punished for trying to do good. It’s about lying. I hate that I got caught trying to do something nice. It is worse that I thought I needed to lie to get what I wanted.
Sure you’re probably saying, “It was only a little white lie,” or “It was a lie to help someone else,” or “really, it wasn’t that big of a deal.” You’re right, on some levels. Ultimately, no one died, no one was bleeding… so it should be ok. It was only a pair of sunglasses, it helped someone else out, and no one was really hurt. Or were they? Two friendships were harmed. The person who gave me the sunglasses now has the need to question when I ask for things, he generally trusts me, but that trust was broken down until further notice. He has every right to feel mistrust towards me. The friendship between the new owner of the sunglasses and me is also harmed. I held her in confidence, I trusted her, and now that trust is broken. So, with one tiny little lie that didn’t really hurt anyone, I created questionable relationships.
The major point I want to make is: lying just isn’t worth it. A few years ago, I made a huge effort and stopped lying. I was inspired to do this by my roommate Melisa, who posed the question to me: why do you lie when it doesn’t really benefit anyone? My eyes were opened in that moment. It wasn’t easy always telling the truth. Especially, in those moments where a lie would make someone feel better. It is so much easier just to tell a lie sometimes. But in the long run, lies hurt. Sometimes it’s not a detrimental, life ending, tragic outcome. Sometimes it’s just a friendship level readjustment (if it’s a big change you might want to read Growing Out Of Friends). However, no matter how high the stakes, why do it? Why not make honesty and truth your go-to? I don’t know why I didn’t just tell the truth in the first place. More people got hurt because I told the lie, than if I had just been honest.
Honesty is the best policy. Benjamin Franklin didn’t just say it to sound smart, and add to the thousands of things he is known for. He said it because it’s true. It takes time to be able to be honest. Why is that? It is hard to be honest. Not only to dis-ingrain lying from your natural instincts, but also to be able to hear the feedback to your honesty. I didn’t want to hear “no, you can’t have a second pair of sunglasses because you gave away your first pair and that was your choice.” So, I made the choice to manipulate the situation, and lie, so my chances of hearing “yes” were higher. Re-read that last sentence. If the word manipulate didn’t jump out at you either time, I want to make it clear that every time you lie, you are manipulating a situation. A lie might not be a big deal, but a manipulation should be. No one really likes to be lied to, but most people hate to be manipulated. A lie is a manipulation. When you lie, yes even to tell someone they don’t look fat in that dress, you’re manipulating the situation to make yourself more comfortable. Yup. Think about it. The last few times you’ve lied: maybe you’ve only told a friend who asked you to hang out that you’re doing laundry, when you’re actually hanging out with another friend. (Why not just say you have other plans? If pressed for more info, just say you’re doing something with a friend or you’re helping out a friend. If you say who it is, and the other person is judgy about it—tell them that is why you weren’t as revealing at the beginning, and its none of their business who you are hanging out with.)
If you’ve told your mother/father/significant other that you can’t do something, why not just tell them that you don’t want to do it? These are people you’re supposed to be intimate with, why not just tell them your preference? Yes, there are sacrifices that should be made in close relationships, but if you’re really against something, tell them. I know you don’t want to create fights that aren’t necessary, and maybe to start out, lie now and tell them later, “you know, I actually lied to you before, I really am not into that Indian restaurant/knitting club/model trains/baking cupcakes these days. I want to spend time with you, but can we do something else instead?”
If you are asked the dreaded “how do I look in this?” Don’t lie and tell the person they look great. Instead think of something else to compliment, or if you think the person can take it, say that it isn’t the best choice of outfit, or that they might want to try another look—especially if you’re in the store—don’t approve a horrid outfit!!
In all lying, you need to observe the reason why you’re lying—is it to protect the other person, or is it self-preservation? Why not admit you’re hanging out with the people you are—its your choice, and that is ok. Why not tell the people you love, that your interests have changed? People grow, people change. You don’t love anyone less for having changed. You just changed—go re-read Patterns Versus Change. If its about a fashion choice, is it possibly that you want to put your fashion choices on that person, or that you, yourself have body issues? Or, is it truly because they look fat? No matter the reason, there are delicate ways to deal with all of these situations, but you have to figure out what is really happening in you.
It takes strength to show vulnerability and weakness. I’m not asking you to change overnight. I’m asking you instead to be strong. To be willing to hear “no.” To be willing to show who you really are.
Let’s start you on the Path of Truth Telling. First: start small. Start with the fibs. (But Clare, you’ve opened my eyes, and I do tell a lot of lies, and manipulate people, and I need to stop, today.) Well, darling hearts, most people aren’t good at quitting anything cold turkey—and even if they are, relapse rate is high. Instead, like a work out, or a new diet, or starting a new job: start small changes and know you’ll have to work at it daily to have results. Start observing when you lie, and see if you can stop yourself before you do. Instead of telling someone that they are wearing an awesome outfit when they look terrible, tell them instead that their hair looks awesome. Or instead, maybe their choice isn’t quite right for where you’re going or what you’re attending.
Second: remember brutal honesty serves brutal honesty. In other words, when you give feedback that is straight up, you might get it thrown right back at you. Find ways to tell the truth but that might not be as harsh as you initially want to respond. (Part of the reason we stray to lying is because we think it is easier to just lie. Instead of putting the work in to readjust our truth to a kinder, gentler version.) Don’t be angry with your mom for not remembering you don’t knit anymore. Instead, kindly tell her that it’s no longer exciting, and instead you’d like to see a movie/art show/ concert with her. Don’t tell your significant other that ballet sucks. Instead, say that you wanted to make him or her happy by attending those few times, but you would love it if they found another friend to go with, and rain check you for some other activity.
If you ease yourself into a life of truth telling, albeit gentle truth, you’ll find it feels better to tell the truth, and its actually harder to lie. Telling my lie about the sunglasses really wasn’t a big deal. I was approached by the giver, and we worked it out. I then approached my friend and talked to her about her side of it—even though she was the one who told the truth in all of this. The funny thing is that I felt horrible for telling a lie. In my truthful world, I was bitten in the ass by telling a lie that didn’t even benefit me. I’m glad it happened, because it inspired me to write this (even though it’s written guiltily). Truth sometimes hurts, but lies are ultimately more painful. Let’s stop lying to each other and make this a more truthful world.