Tell The Truth- Or At Least Don't Lie

December 4, 2018

If the experience of being forced to come to Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp teaches anything, it should teach me that I need to pay much closer attention to what I do and say. Doing that in retrospect here has not always been enjoyable, in fact it has often been disconcerting. But it has been helpful. With it came the realization that for much of my life, I have bifurcated myself. There was one branch that observed, thought, felt, and judged.  Then there was a separate branch that spoke. The end result of this bifurcation was that some of what I spoke was simply not true. And I'm not talking about the lie when asked "Does this dress make my butt look big?"

 

Now of course I didn't just lie for no reason. I had motives for not telling the truth. Often it was to get what I wanted or to win--gaining status, impressing people, influencing events and opinions to meet my expectations, to accomplish what I thought should occur or to just get people to like me. I even lied to give people what I thought they wanted. Another motive was simply to avoid conflict. I was apparently pretty good at living this way because it worked for a long time. Granted, I told the truth most of the time, but I lied when necessary to manipulate my version of reality to fit my perceptions and desires while moving toward my pre-determined, sometimes irrational, outcome. 

 

There are some obvious problems with living this way like, when carried to an extreme, it landed me in prison. As Jordan Peterson points out in 12 Rules For Life, that way of living assumes that what I irrationally thought I knew and what shaped what I said was accurate far into the future. Objectively, that's a fallacious assumption because I don't have that kind of insight. Nobody does. It also assumes that reality would be unbearable if left to its own desires, uninfluenced by my lie. That's absurd too, but it seemed to make sense at the time.

 

The Buddha had it right; there is suffering. In fact, much of life is just that, and the quality of my life is greatly impacted by how I embrace and move through and beyond suffering. When I have lied, my motivation was based on avoidance of some perceived suffering. But hiding truth from others in difficult circumstances only denied me the opportunity to grow what was my otherwise unrealized self. In hindsight, I'm convinced that some of what I could have been never happened because I didn't let myself suffer and grow through the acknowledgement of the truth.

 

From any perspective, we all know that telling a lie weakens our character and makes true friendship almost impossible. It's easy to rationalize that away in the uncomfortable moment even though we know that character and relationships are the foundation needed when life's storms hit. Every lie slowly erodes our foundation, so when the category 5 storm hits, there's none left. 

 

Peterson points out another perspective and reason to tell the truth. Research has recently discovered that new genes in the central nervous system turn themselves on when I'm placed in a new and challenging situation like one where I have decided to tell an uncomfortable but necessary truth. These new genes code for new proteins which are the building blocks for new structures in the brain. So when I face difficult people and situations truthfully, even if it causes short term conflicts, I'm helping my brain develop. 

 

Life is hard enough without facing it with an incomplete brain. Thankfully this research means that some of my latent brain cells are still in there being turned on as I speak the truth. The good news is that it's not too late to practice this every moment of every day.

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones