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Why is it so Easy to Lie?

Why is it so Easy to Lie?

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”   -Fyodor Dostoevsky

As I read the caption “disgraced” under Lance Armstrong’s photo documenting the interview of him finally admitting to drug use throughout his notorious cycling career, I wondered if he would walk away finally relieved of the enormous burden of his deceit or in the planning stages of his next role as the repentant star. Now, after 13 years of denials and false accusations, there is no simple truth that he can share that will reckon the years of aggressive manipulation of the truth in which a single lie became an extravagant lifestyle that he forced onto everyone and everything he touched. Apologies at this late juncture feel puny and almost like adding insult to injury. What we want instead when people are finally willing to speak the truth is a true reflection on the whys; a window into the slippery slope of lies that consume us whole.

We all know the lure of lies in our own lives. We are surprised by the ease with which small untruths are spread, either by omission or via a quick nod. We all know the inconvenience that the truth can provoke, and the weighted choices between what we want, what is expedient and what is truthful. We have all experienced the profound challenge of truth telling in our most intimate encounters. Cheating and lying enter our lives as soon as our imagination comes alive. I still remember one of the first times my son, who at the time was three, held freshly baked cookies behind his back assuring me he didn’t take any. Little did he know that the evidence was smeared across his cheek.   Even then I wondered about how we lean towards lies and what pulls us back to the truth.

In part, it is our own daily dance around truth that makes judging Lance Armstrong so easy. In part, when we get the truth, we want to see remorse.  We expect lies admitted to carry as much weight as the betrayal cost the believer. In addition, our love/hate fixation on celebrities makes their wrongdoing that much more wrong. Armstrong is not alone; he is surrounded by dozens of business, athlete and entertainment stars whose apologies are used more for paving a way into their next act, than an actual reinvention of oneself. The latter is the point of telling the truth- to come closer to one’s authentic self.

For most of us it is the emotional dissonance that is created when we live in the space between truth and lies that is enough to keep us striving towards an authentic life. Unfortunately, once one is committed to a single untruth, it takes almost no time at all for something in our minds to switch on that makes living a lie not only possible, but comfortable. This kind of pathological lying grows from everyone falling victim to the deception. After the tragic losses associated with the multi-billion dollar Madoff deception, many of us are left scratching our heads, in disbelief that we didn’t see the warning signs. Sometimes, we realize that we were too easily victimized by liars by our own unwillingness to see the truth.

One of the most common and most deeply wounding deceptions that plays out in millions of relationships happens in the lying behaviors that surround infidelity. Survivors of infidelity will often say that there were so many signs they didn’t want to see. Emotional betrayals of this intensity wreak havoc with the one’s ability to trust one self.  I remember this myself when, years ago, I discovered a long time office manager and friend was embezzling money for more than a year. Meanwhile, every day she came in with a smile on her face and spoke about raising kids, as she was committing this misdeed. What took the longest to recover from was my inability to trust my own judgment.

George Orwell once wrote: “In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” Living life truthfully is revolutionary not only in the way that it changes the world around us but even more so about how it changes us.  Focusing our energy on living authentically, owning our feelings and expressing them even when it is painful, turns us into reliable sensors for the truth around us. Getting out of the storyline in our heads makes us less susceptible to getting pulled into other people’s story lines. Truth when practiced vigilantly is like waking up another sense; we can smell a lie, we notice how people cannot hold a gaze. The dissonance between truth and untruth becomes a barometer to guide us.  Living a life aligned with your own truth is the gate to your best self and a path towards lasting relationships that will hold you.

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Wendy Strgar

Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family.  In her new book, Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy,  she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative adviceIt has been called "the essential guide for relationships."  The book is available on ebook.  Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13- 22 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

34 comments

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6:19PM PDT on May 6, 2013

Did George Washington chop down the cherry tree?

2:09AM PST on Mar 7, 2013

Great Read, Thanks So Much!

5:47PM PST on Feb 18, 2013

Sometimes, people don't want to deal with the consequences, or they get into trouble for the truth. We are taught and teach our kids to be honest, but in reality, when it is a matter of your career or reputation, the truth can hurt you more.

12:37PM PST on Feb 7, 2013

Lying can be pretty dificult as well.

6:17AM PST on Feb 5, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

5:51AM PST on Feb 5, 2013

great post

11:17PM PST on Feb 4, 2013

noted

10:22PM PST on Feb 4, 2013

LOOKS GOOD

9:37PM PST on Feb 4, 2013

I prefer the truth above all else but for some reason people tell me that I am too honest - I am still trying to figure out what degree of truth people want to hear. For the most part, I don't think people want to hear the truth if it makes them uncomfortable or makes them look bad or is plainly opposite position then what one wants / wants to hear.

8:56PM PST on Feb 4, 2013

Lies....a lie can mean many things....not just telling a lie.What about not saying something when we know it should be said ?...or even implying something which we know will be taken the wrong way?...or not correcting a situation which is not the way it should be ?..or not saying or doing anything at all but just let a wrong exist ?...or living a life which is all about doing a wrong to counter a previous wrong ? ...and then another wrong to counter that ? ...or watch someone being mistreated and do nothing because we " are interferring "?...or take something which is not ours believeing we will get away with it ?...or in an election voting for not what we should but what we view as advantagous to ourselves ? ....In fact,our whole lives are full of lies and we don't even notice them because we view it as the norm.Govts.win elections based on lies so we are part of that too because we vote them into power. Think about it.A lie is anything that is against what the truth is....actions and words or inaction.Who is not guilty ?

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