Have you ever seen American Idol where contestants audition for a coveted spot only to leave stunned when the judges tell them they have no talent? We watch and ask ourselves in disbelief, "Don't they know they are terrible?" Probably not. There are many potential reasons for their skewed self-perception such as denial, narcissism, unrealistic expectations, or maybe because friends and family have been telling them for years they are talented when they aren't.
Encouraging someone to achieve his dreams is great, but there is a fine line between supporting and misleading. I'd like to explore the possibility of finding truthful ways to encourage those we love, as well as honoring our own truths, rather than resorting to easy lies.
Many of us are used to telling seemingly harmless untruths. We live in a culture where little white lies are commonplace.
We lie out of habit or because we think it makes life easier. We tell our work acquaintances that we’d love to meet them for a drink but we’re swamped, or our friends we can’t help them move a couch because our in-laws are in town for a visit.
We often lie to evade responsibilities like telling bill collectors that the check’s in the mail or we lie to our loved ones to make them feel better about themselves.
Sometimes we even look into the mirror and lie to ourselves. Believe me folks, 50 is not the new 30.
Little white lies may seem harmless but they aren't. When we fail to give our honest opinions when asked, we withhold potentially helpful information. Telling others how wonderful their accomplishments are when those accomplishments are mediocre not only creates false hope but may negate the need to strive and improve. Exaggerating our own deeds to puff ourselves up diminishes our true successes.
Most importantly, when we tell lies, even seemingly innocuous ones, people subconsciously begin to distrust us regardless of our good intentions.
We don't want to hurt people's feelings or squelch dreams, but truth telling helps everyone in the end.
So where do we go from here?
- The little white liar says he doesn’t have it.
- The honest person says he doesn’t feel comfortable lending money to friends.
- The little white liar says his work schedule is unpredictable and he could be called off to Yemen at a moment's notice.
- The honest person says his priorities right now are to focus on family and existing projects. He doesn't want to spread himself too thin.
- The little while liar says three
- The honest person, who isn't quite ready to disclose, says he isn't comfortable sharing that just yet, or even better, "I'll tell you when I am ready to add one more to the list."
- The little while liar says it is absolutely beautiful
- The honest person says this is so creative and a great reflection of your taste. Your effort really shows! (Remember, the job is done. Identify the difference between sharing your opinion about a completed project and giving input which will affect an outcome. You are her friend and would want to support her enthusiasm.)
There are many benefits of telling the truth. People trust you because they know you mean what you say. You will feel better about yourself, you won't get caught in a lie, you'll honor your own achievements and those of others, and will be respected and sought out for your opinion. Most importantly, telling the truth forces you to identify your own beliefs. It allows you to prioritize your feelings and over time, honesty becomes second nature.
To reap the benefits of truth-telling, I propose we all commit to a week without lying. Total honesty is no easy feat and requires solid boundaries and nerves of steel. To succeed you must take stock of your true feelings and use creative tact in your daily communications. Being truthful isn't about hurting someone. It is about authenticity.
Speaking the truth brings many unexpected gifts. You may discover that you are always honest. What a great thing to know about yourself. You may also learn that you have a difficult time because you feel insecure or worry that you have nothing worthwhile to say. Take on the challenge and face whatever arises. This process shines a light on the healed and unhealed within you. One thing is for certain: When you no longer lie about the small things, you find real solutions and have genuine conversations when presented with life’s bigger challenges. Finally, no longer lying to others makes it much harder to lie to yourself, which is a key to personal growth.
Remember Shakespeare? "To thine own self be true." It works every time.