How do you feel when you catch someone telling you a lie? Do you instantly think, “Oh, it’s ok. He’s just trying to keep from hurting me, so that’s why he said he was at the office until 9:00 instead of out drinking with his buddies.” Or, “She told me she had lunch with Susan instead of telling me she had lunch with Bob. I understand. She didn’t want to worry me.”
Or do these “low” levels of dishonesty register on your inner Richter scale, building towards an irreversible chasm? One that gets deeper and wider with subsequent lies? And are you silent about them because apparently everyone lies–especially spouses?
I was shocked by an article in the October 20 Wall Street Journal entitled, “Lies, Damned Lies and Lies to Tell Your Spouse.” It was written for those who take lying lying down.
“Let me be clear: I’m not talking about the big, ugly, deal-breaking, deceptions—lies that, if exposed, could destroy a relationship,” says the article’s author Elizabeth Bernstein. “I’m talking about the fibs and feints and little white lies that serve as a social salve and help a relationship run smoothly. You know what I mean.”
She reported the lies husbands and wives tell to each other to “avoid conflict” or “protect a loved one.” She didn’t report how recipients of the lies feel when they learn the truth. Maybe she thinks it’s ok as long as you don’t get caught.
In the midst of condoning a myriad of “little” lies, she had the audacity to quote a psychologist who said, “It’s a matter of survival. If you don’t fib, you don’t live.” I’m glad I’m not his wife.
Here are a few excerpts from my subsequent letter to Ms. Bernstein:
Many years ago, I read, “Would you rather have many friends who like you for whom you’re pretending to be… or one friend who likes you for who you truly are?” That was the beginning of my truth telling. The beginning of finding and being who I am. The beginning of the end of trying to be what everyone else expected me to be.
…you are encouraging a foundational value of dishonesty that can lead to bigger and bigger lies — in personal relationships as well as business and politics.
I would love to see a counter-article, one that extols the virtues of truth-telling, showing how much less stress is created by honest, loving relationships. Imagine never having to second-guess what your spouse really means!
I hope you’ll join me in building a society where truth-telling, rather than “fibs and feints,” is the norm. All that is required is to practice and share the Revolutionary Agreements. Honestly!
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