Don’t be so quick to answer that! The answer—that is, the truth—is not so obvious.
If you answered “truth”, you’re probably lying. What you don’t know can most certainly hurt you.
Lies are clean. The truth is messy. Lies are clear. The truth is blurry. Lies are simple. The truth is complex. Lies are comforting. The truth is uncomfortable. Lies don’t challenge us or our beliefs. The truth pushes our boundaries – it makes us question our beliefs.
The truth is, most people, most of the time, don’t want the truth.
You want to be lied to. You want to hear “everything is going to be alright”. You want to hear “you are right”. That way, there is no need to think, no need to change, no need to question.
You want to be validated. You want to be pacified. You want to be included, be a part of the group. You want your security blanket so that you can sleep soundly.
But what would happen if you had to either a. rethink or b. actually alter your attitudes or actions? Would you have to travel back in time and be embarrassed by your past? Would you have to reevaluate each and every past decision that you made that were based on those lies, and relive your life based on the truth? Would you have to find new friends or a new group to be accepted by?
Think about this: when you went to school to learn a subject – any subject – from kindergarten through college, did you come home each day sobbing “I learned something new today that I didn’t know yesterday! I’m so stupid!” No! You were ecstatic to know more than you did just the day before. You were happy to be educated, to be stimulated.
This stems partially from your incorrect/skewed idea of what it means to be intelligent.
Intelligence isn’t knowing, it’s questioning. It’s knowing that you don’t know and being intelligent enough to take the time and expend the energy to dig deep and find the answers, regardless of whether those answers are what you want them to be or not, regardless of whether you agree with them or not, regardless of whether it makes you feel comfortable or not.
Aristotle famously said: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
A word on understanding, accepting, and agreeing
If you were to say that the earth is flat, I would understand what it is that you are saying. After all, I live in Texas, and I can assure you that, for the most part, the immediate land around me is, essentially, flat.
The point is, we cannot accept without first understanding.
I could even accept that, for all practical purposes, the earth can be viewed as flat. The curvature is so minuscule that it cannot be perceived by the naked eye.
We cannot agree without having first accepted. I, however, cannot agree that the world is flat, as I have the information and the knowledge that proves this is not the case.
Understanding, accepting, and agreeing are a progression. You cannot achieve the next higher level without first completing those below it.
And how does this pertain to truth and lies? You agree with untruths without first accepting them. And, you accept them without first understanding them.
Lies = beliefs = values = identity
Your lies form your beliefs. Your beliefs form your values. Your identity – your very core – is comprised of your beliefs and your values. Therefore, your lies—yes—your personal lies, are a part of who you are. They are a part of what makes you, you.
Just because this is true doesn’t mean that you can’t change or that you shouldn’t change. It simply points out that the truth may be difficult to understand and to accept. It may come off as an affront, an assault, on you personally. The truth hurts!
Truth, then, will likely cause some sort of a change, a realignment of your thinking and your values. But, this particular kind of change, this realization of the truth, leads to growth; a better understanding, better choices that are grounded in reality instead of fiction and fantasy.
The truth may be unsettling because change makes us question ourselves.
Who are you if you alter who you used to be? The “new, improved” you, that’s who.
It’s better to look to the “future you” than to dwell on the “past you”.
So, while you might ask “why do people lie to me?” or “why are people so deceitful?” Realize that people do lie to you, and, yes – you also lie to them.
Everyone believes that what they are saying is what the other person “wants” to hear. So, in essence, you’re doing each other a favor to lie.
Everybody’s doing it
Doctors won’t tell you the truth. They won’t be straightforward with you because they believe that you don’t want the truth.
(In my best Jack Nicholson impersonation …) “You can’t handle the truth!”
In my case, both my doctor and my physical therapist were intentionally vague and evasive about what I could expect for my recovery. When I pressed them, they told me that patients really don’t want to know. Rather than accepting the truth and working within the reality, people tend instead to get depressed and give up.
But, to me, that begs the question “what happens when the truth becomes clear?” Don’t these people feel deceived and manipulated? Aren’t they even more upset once they find out that their hopes were based on lies and what they expected to happen simply can’t happen because it was all based on false information?
Of course, the fact of the matter is that if the other person is the one who decides for you whether or not you should hear the truth, then they get to pick and choose what they tell you.
How can you make any meaningful decisions if other people get to decide whether or not you should get the whole, unbiased truth?
And what about when it’s not what you want to hear but what the other person wants you to hear? What then?
The Truth or Lies Challenge
This week’s challenge is a simple one. Ask yourself, do you want the truth or do you want lies?
And before you answer that, take a moment to think about whether you already know the answer that you want to hear? If that’s the case, if you don’t want the truth, it’s really validation that you’re after.
Ask yourself “what if the answer is something that I don’t want to hear?”
How will you react? Will you accept it, or will you reject it?
If you can’t handle the answer, don’t ask the question!
Oh yeah, and “stop lying to yourself!” (easier said than done).
Don’t forget to let me know what you find – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I want to know.
Good Together: your guide to healthy, happy relationships
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