To lie, or not to lie?
The choice to lie can be a deliberate decision, the product of an addictive habit, or an innocent slip of the tongue.
There are grave lies – when a murderer foils the incriminating evidence, when a rapist denies the horrific charges, when an authoritative figure willingly supports a false claim – that grips society in its clammy hands and forces a shroud of darkness on everything. There are serious lies – when a spouse cheats on their partner, a student plagiarizes his/her work, an employee breaks the rules he/she should work within – that break minds and hearts. There are regular lies – when you assure your whiny friend the new leggings look amazing on her (when they really don’t), when you say you will make it to your desperate neighbor’s dinner party (when you know you won’t), when you shower compliments on the genius ideas generated by your boss (which aren’t genius ideas at all) – that don’t seem quite so bad in the grand scheme of life. Then there are the lies you tell yourself – when you convince yourself that this is what you want (when you really don’t), that this is what you are (when you really aren’t), that this is what makes you happy (when you’re really not) – that are the most dangerous of them all.
Lies are fiction and fabrication. They are betrayals and deceptions. They are broken promises and shattered hearts. You can lie by saying and not saying, by looking and not looking, by feeling and not feeling. You can lie to others and you can lie to yourself. You can lie deliberately but also without full intent. You have white lies and not-so-white lies. There are so many varieties of lies, so many ways to be a liar. You might initiate the lies or be dragged into them. You may spark it, provoke it, grow it, or be forced to accommodate it. The hardest thing is to avoid it once you’ve started down this path. It becomes an unhealthy habit, spiraling you into the depths of darkness before you even realize you have lost yourself to dishonesty.
For someone whose very cornerstone is honesty, it goes without saying that lying is not in my blood. I make a very bad liar – the very effort to string together a lie leaves me confused, baffled, and utterly incompetent. I just can’t lie. And the few times I have attempted to, I have failed miserably. I have tried to lie to be polite in social situations – you know, one of those harmless “white” lies – but the words rolling off my tongue never matched the expression on my face, and I was almost always caught burning with embarrassment at the obvious disconnect of what I was saying and what I was truly thinking. (It’s not surprising I nipped that habit in the bud; a quiet smile can do wonders in place of rambling white lies.) When I was a freshman in high school, I lied to my parents about hanging out at a girl friend’s house when in actuality my group of friends and I were headed off to a GUY friend’s house to hang out – that is, play video games, watch movies, and listen to loud music. I could have just told my parents the truth, but I was so afraid of the wrath of my oh-so-traditional South Indian parents (“What?? You were at a BOY’s house?!”) that I decided I would do what all the other teenagers my age were doing… lie. Obviously I was caught. Not being well versed in the art of lying, I had left obvious trails of my deception and my parents had no problem sniffing out a very guilty me at the end of that evening. I won’t forget how I hurt my parents’ trust in me for the pleasure of my friends’ company that day. It might seem like I’m coming down rather hard on myself – I was just being a typical teenager, after all! – but I couldn’t take it lightly. The aftermath of that instance made an impressionable impact on me. I realized lies aren’t worth diminishing the value of your relationships, hurting your loved ones, or destroying the precious trust they have in you. They aren’t worth the momentary pleasures, impending guilt, and consistent regret that are unavoidable byproducts of the decision to lie.
Mark Twain said ”If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” The truth unfolds itself. But when you lie, you’re going against the tide.
When you lie, your straight line gets squiggly, darting left and right, and twisting in and out of itself. Your colors warp together so there are no distinct shades, no borders, no distinctive palette. Your canvas is a big mess because your one lie grows another lie, and another, and another… and before you know it, you have a mountain of lies sitting in front of you and you have no clue how it even got there! It’s literally a pile of crap. And the worst part of it is that it keeps growing. It gets taller and wider until it magnifies to unimaginable levels, engulfing you in its ghastly shadow. You lose total clarity. You lose your integrity. You lose your mind! As for your heart? It’s crying out loud, buried deep inside the monster you have created, but you can barely hear it. It feels like there is no way out.
But there is.
Stop lying. Just stop lying. Sure, that sounds like impractical advice to follow on a regular basis, where the days are peppered with white (and blue and purple and green) lies, but give it an honest attempt.
Don’t lie to others. Don’t lie to yourself. Resist the urge to exaggerate, blow things out of proportion, and add sparkles and glitter to everything. Beautifying something in the hopes of making it more appealing is a lie in itself. Fight the tendency to cover up, hide, and pretend you don’t see the invisible elephant in the room. Ignoring the truth is the same as lying. Be true to yourself, your feelings, and that persistent little voice inside of you that always speaks the truth. We are not born liars; as we grow into adults, we nurture ourselves to become storytellers, not just to an audience, but also to ourselves. A fantasy is an escape from reality, but when we mix the two and play make-believe with our lives, we’re living an illusion. We’re allowing ourselves to lose sight of what is really important in our existence – not acceptance derived through lies, but love born out of being true to ourselves and the world around us.
Give in to the delicate feelings of being vulnerable, open, and fully transparent. Look into the mirror and see a true reflection of yourself. It is always far more beautiful than the made-up version.