Week§22: On Truth
I just came across this article, and I felt like sharing it because it is a subject that is close to my heart as well, something I can really relate to on many levels and that I have been (and still am) meditating on a lot. And I think it is really valuable for just about all of us to read, actually I think we ALL can relate in some way or another, to some degree or another….. if we are really being honest to ourselves, that is….
So here we go:
“This whole past week has just been one reminder after another that nothing good ever comes from a lie. So many of the people around me have been experiencing immense pain because of lies that were just recently exposed. And I’ve been experiencing quite a bit of personal pain and inner turmoil because of a lie too.
I used to hide behind lies and secrets all the time when I was younger. My reason was always that I didn’t want to “hurt anyone”. I thought I could actually prevent causing pain to people with pretty lies that would make them feel better or take the edge off of a bad situation. I naively thought it was better that way. But the more lies I told and the more secrets I kept the more people I hurt, and by the time I was in my mid-twenties I had left a trail of people injured by my dishonesty.
I learned some valuable lessons about honesty the hard way, as the result of the pain I caused to others:
-Sooner or later, the truth is almost always exposed, and usually by some indirect means rather than by the liar themselves.
-The longer a lie or secret is perpetuated the more betrayed a person feels when they find out the truth.
-A lie by omission has just as much capacity to hurt others as a direct lie does.
-The people enlisted to help keep secrets or support lies are often injured by them too.
-Lies beget lies, one lie requires other lies to survive.
-The pain caused by a lie lasts longer and has more far-reaching consequences than would have been caused by exposure to the original painful truth.
-Most people intuitively know when they are being lied to, and part of them will always be haunted by that knowing on some level whether the lie is ever exposed or not.
-No one can be responsible for the happiness of another and using dishonesty to “protect” their happiness has the opposite effect instead.
-No reason, no matter how good, is ever really sufficient to completely justify dishonesty.
-Trust can be restored, but not easily and seldom is it ever restored fully.
I also learned the hard way that everyone’s bill comes due sooner or later. I was a slow learner and a coward so even having my own lies exposed on multiple occasions didn’t cure me of my habitual dishonesty. But in my mid-twenties I experienced some of the worst pain of my life because of a lie, and that experience changed everything for me. I finally felt for myself the pain I had caused to others, and it was excruciating, but there was also something I didn’t expect that was even worse:
I had known it would be painful and I anticipated that my trust for that person would be forever damaged. But what I didn’t see coming was how that lie would impact the way I viewed myself. I didn’t realize how stupid I would feel. I didn’t think the experience would make me feel so violated and stripped of my dignity. It didn’t occur to me how much it would hurt to know that someone I loved and trusted had thought of me as too weak to handle the truth or so undeserving of respect. I didn’t think I would be so angry to realize that I had been robbed of my ability to make an informed choice of my own. I didn’t anticipate that learning the truth from a third party would so severely intensify the feeling of betrayal…
But as excruciating as all that pain was, had it been only that I would have pulled myself back to my feet and marched on. What hurt the most was that the experience made me question my own judgement of character. I had always been so confident that I could trust my assessment of a person’s character, but this man had completely pulled the wool over my eyes. I respected his strength of character more than I ever had anyone else’s before. He set the precedent and was the standard I measured all others against. So to be so disastrously wrong made me doubt my judgement about everything. I no longer believed in my intuition nor my ability to analytically assess anyone. Then I began doubting every choice I made. I no longer trusted myself and as that spiraled out of control I lost confidence in myself entirely.
It’s been six years now, and I’m just beginning to feel as though my confidence has truly recovered. To this day, he’s still never acknowledged his actions or accepted accountability for them. I’m not expecting an apology, nor do I need one, but a simple acknowledgement of accountability would have been enough to restore at least some of my faith in him and in my own judgement. I just found out too that he’s now repeated the same pattern and hurt another person with the same kinds of lies he told me. Needless to say, the lessons I’ve learned from my experiences with him are ones I will never forget.
Integrity is now more important to me than any other trait. It’s the first thing I look for when I am building relationships of any kind with others. But even more importantly, integrity is the one thing I demand from myself without any room for compromise. The simple pain experienced from the betrayal of a lie is excruciating enough on it’s own, but what keeps me honest is that I NEVER want my impact on any person’s life to make them feel stripped of their dignity or like they can’t trust their own judgment.
Unfortunately, contrary to what we’re taught as children “fairness” has almost no practical application in reality. There isn’t always a happy resolution where everyone gets to walk away unscathed. The truth isn’t always pleasant but the pain associated with it is sometimes necessary in order to prevent pain that is even worse and also entirely needless.
I still try to minimize the pain I cause to others as much as I possibly can, and I believe there is always a way to be accountable for my truth and still provide something of recompense to the person who will be hurt by that truth. It is admittedly a compromise, it’s simply not possible to relieve that pain for them entirely, but what matters more to me is doing my part to protect that person’s right to make their own informed choices, to maintain their dignity, and to never need to question their judgment of character. I can live with someone hating me for my truth if that’s what it comes down to, but my experiences have taught me that the costs of dishonesty are too high a price for me to be willing to pay.
Even if I leave no other notable positive mark on the world, I at least hope that when my ashes are laid to rest the people who knew me will learn something from the example of my integrity and pay it forward with the same respect and love for other people that have become so paramount to me.” I. Turner, from ‘Different Functionality’