Everybody lies. That’s the truth. But how much and how often? And when do the lines between truth and lies get blurred? I recently read an article in The New York Times about how honesty makes you happier. The author shares how her 6 year old daughter told her that telling the truth made her feel ‘gold in the brain’. What is honesty? If someone asks me “How am I looking?” and I tell her she looks old and fat, is that honesty? When I share my story or update a status on Facebook in which I somehow get perceived as the ‘heroine’, is that honesty? It’s hard to tell. Because every story has more than one version of the truth. What is the truth about honesty?
What is the truth about honesty?
“We are all very good at rationalizing our actions so that they are in line with our selfish motives.”
― Dan Ariely, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves
That is certainly the truth.
We all tell lies out of compassion – to not be rude or to hurt someone. For example, answering a ‘how do I look’ question with ‘Lovely’. To me, this are alright. But going out of your way to fawn over someone and tell them how wonderful they look, when you don’t think so, is not acceptable to me. Do I always like to be told the truth about my appearance? No. But as Khaled Hosseini said “Better to get hurt by the truth than comforted with a lie.”
We tell lies to get ourselves out of social situations. You don’t want to go to a party, so you tell the host you’re busy. Is that okay? I don’t think so. One of the most practical reasons for this is that you might get asked again, or you’ll get caught. As Mark Twain famously said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
My struggle with authenticity
My writing is a struggle to be authentic without hurting other people. But how can I share my truth without that? In recent posts, I’ve been attempting to be as honest as I can about my relationship with my Mum. I remember writing a post about loyalty being overrated and saying this in response to a comment: I have sometimes observed people being more loyal to a parent/family member after that person has passed. As if somehow in their passing away, they have acquired sainthood! I’m glad to say that I have steered clear of that kind of dishonesty. My Mom was human, just as I am and I’d like to remember and honour her for the woman she was.
The dishonesty that I rate the worst is when we lie to ourselves. I fight a hard battle to be honest to myself. Do I always win? No. But I try. I strongly believe in self-awareness and telling myself off. And I’m blessed to have José telling me when I’m being dishonest or inauthentic. I’ve slowly learned to take it from him. Am I always honest and authentic. No, no, no. But I’m aware that it is what I’m called to be and I work at it.
“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 Dostoyevsky (The Brothers Karamazov)
What’s your take on honesty? Does honesty feel like ‘gold in the brain’ for you?
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