I told a “little white lie” this week. I’m not proud of it and after it tugged on my heart for a few days, I came clean with the person I told it to. I didn’t lie about anything huge (hence the ‘little white lie’ part – whatever that means), but it was a lie nonetheless. It left me wondering why I couldn’t just tell the truth in the first place! Here’s what I believe is the truth about lies. . .
I believe that ultimately, lying, either outright or by omission, is about controlling the other person – controlling their thoughts, feelings, actions, or reactions. In my case, I did not tell the truth because I didn’t want the other person to possibly feel a certain way. Essentially, I was anticipating the other person’s emotional reaction (real or imagined) and attempting to steer it in the direction I wanted it to go.
There are lots of different kinds of lies, but, in my opinion, they all serve the purpose to control or, dare I say manipulate, the other person for our own self gain. Some may argue that some lies are well-intentioned. On the surface, it may certainly appear that way. What is really happening, however, is “I want to prevent you from the feelings you would have, so that I can feel okay.” That’s not self-sacrifice, that’s controlling the information a person has to create the outcome that you want. If you are not comfortable with someone else being uncomfortable, then you may find yourself doing all sorts of things to control the other person’s feelings!
Sometimes the dishonesty is to protect ourselves from negative (or potentially negative) consequences. Whether it is an outright lie or keeping a secret, this is a person’s primitive way of denying the truth. It says, “I don’t want to have to face the consequences, so I’ll just deny it and hope it goes away.” This is some people’s way of avoiding their own feelings (shame, vulnerability, regret, fear, grief, anxiety, etc.) So while they may be lying to someone else, they are really lying to themselves!
Whether it is looking someone in the eye and telling a bold faced lie, lying by omission (secret keeping), or little white well-intended lies, we need to examine why we are doing what we are doing. A person of integrity is not just someone who tells the truth, they are someone who can be trusted to be upfront and honest, even when doing so is painful and messy. A person of integrity faces the mess and helps clean it up rather than running from it and denying its existence.
Do you catch yourself lying, telling half-truths, twisting/spinning information, withholding information, secret keeping, minimizing, fabricating, or refusing to look at the truth in your own life? If so, I challenge you to pay attention and try to understand why you do so. When you figure it out, the truth shall set you free!