Very few people are rapists or murderers. Many of us are thieves at one point or another in our lives. (My first transgression: a matchbox car from preschool.)
Everyone is a liar… Every single day.
Yet lying is admonished by nearly all people across the world, regardless of religious, cultural, or educational background. It’s explicitly prohibited as one of the Ten Commandments of Christianity, Catholicism, and Judaism (number 8 or 9, depending on your tradition). It’s outlawed in the Qur’an (in sura Al-An’am 6:151, as well as in Al-Isra, Chapter 17). And instruction against its use is – at the very least – strongly implied in nearly every other human belief system and culture (i.e. in each of their respective forms of the “Golden Rule”). Yet despite the fact that essentially all rationally-functioning adults would hold lying to be a morally reprehensible – or at the very least cautioned against – action, we all do it at an absolutely alarming frequency.
For the better part of the last three decades, I’ve been no different. In fact, I would go so far to wager that I’m a considerably better liar than the average Joe. Since I was in middle school, I’ve been aware of my ability to lie both persuasively (in that I was more often than not able to bring about the desired intention of the lie) and effectively (in that I was able to keep track of which lies I told to which people). As I aged and entered adulthood, its application only became more robust. Sometimes, my career necessitated that I play my little trump card in order to succeed at ‘the game’. Other times, my personal life could be made just a bit more convenient with a little fib here or there. To no surprise, the more I lied, the better I became at lying in the future. Lying, like any other skill, only gets stronger the more you use it.
In fact, over the last few years, my ability to lie in certain situations has even become a bit of a running joke amongst my friends and I; the ease, subtlety, and convincing nature of my lies were often catalysts of hilarious events – memories we would retell again and again with greater and greater fondness. “Remember when Keith convinced us to do X because of Y in order to avoid Z? Can you even believe that we believed Y. Haha – that bastard!”
After all, what was the harm? I never really lied about anything particularly important. I never really brought about the misery of others. These were just white lies. Little deceptions. Teeny, tiny misdirections. There was no malevolent intentionality. No underlying psychopathic or sociopathic motivation. These lies didn’t really matter. Plus, my friends and family knew I never lied to them. (Which of course is total bullshit. I did. And we all do, even to our loved ones.)
Except even if I didn’t, there has still been a disastrous implication of having my friends and family as the spectators of my lies: It has planted in them the seeds of distrust that I could very conceivably lie to them, too. (And may have done so in the past!?) You see, these “tiny erosions of trust” don’t only weaken the foundations of each of my relationships; they call into question the very person I claim to be, as well as everything I will eventually become. For someone with aspirational plans for the future, most of which include sharing my ideas with others, this is highly problematic. Yet even worse: these micro-tears are not easily repaired. Once present, they’re nearly impossible to address directly or effectively. Once planted, these seeds only grow, and by doing so wither the very relationships within which they were never intended to exist.
Granted, the majority of all of our associations with other people are not of the same nature as those relationships we have with our loved ones; they’re much more transactional in nature. For these, is lying in the way I have been (i.e. ‘to play the game’, ‘to make moments just less awkward’, etc.) really so bad? I’ve personally come to believe it is. First, there is the simple threat of seduction; by lying in my more transactional relationships (especially when those lies are successful in bringing about some desired end), I am inviting the temptation to continue doing so in my actual relationships. And the risk is just too great to chance it.
Yet this is – admittedly – a relatively insignificant consideration when compared to the greatly more threatening consequence that lying (in all its forms, e.g. lies of commission, omission, and other forms of general deception) can have: preventing us from partaking in the honest discourse required in order to ensure our future.
We’re in the middle of one of the most paramount moments in human history. We currently face numerous globally-significant threats to our future (e.g. unchecked climate change, the ongoing pursuit of equality and human rights, several idealogical, religious, and cultural wars, etc.), the outcomes of which will affect the very existence of mankind as a species. None of us are above (or below) being involved in determining the future of our species, and – as such – these conversations should be occurring at every level of our society, regardless of how sensitive these issues are or how uncomfortable discussing them makes us. We cannot allow the recent emergence of rampant victimhood culture (by non-victim majority groups), out of hand political correctness, or the apparent weakening of liberalism to prevent us from having these difficult yet deeply important conversations. The stakes are simply too great, and the consequences of our actions over the course of the coming decade too important. Only through honest, measured, and well informed discourse can we ever hope to arrive at a solution to each of these (and other) threats. This type of dialogue is simply impossible to have if we allow even the slightest presence of lying.
For the above reasons (and others that I will discuss over the coming weeks and months), I have decided to commit to a personal future without lying. To anyone. About absolutely anything. That’s right: Not at work. Not at home. Not even little white lies, such as false encouragement of a friend or family member, excuses for why I have to cancel plans, or reasons why I won’t give a homeless person spare change.
I created this project, Adventures in Honesty, in order to document my own personal experiences as I attempt to live all facets of my life without lying. Over the coming weeks and months, I will discuss many more topics on the subject (e.g. the specific problems with white lies, the different types of lies and deception, etc.), as well as continue to share completely candidly the ways in which my own relationships and life change in light of this new commitment to honesty (while still protecting the identity of others involved).
I fully expect that many of my more transactional relationships will come to end. I also expect that most of my genuine relationships will change to some degree. My hope is that they will do so entirely for the better. And while I don’t expect to convince others to follow my footsteps, I do hope that by sharing my own experiences as a reformed-liar attempting to lead an uncompromisingly honest life, I can motivate others to join in more open and honest dialogue with one another.
Thank you for joining me on this adventure.