Lies can destroy lives. It has been shown time and time again. It’s even mentioned in the Ten Commandments in the Bible. “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” Yet in the American culture and many cultures throughout the world we hear things like “Well it’s just a little white lie.” “I’m just lying so I don’t hurt their feelings.”
A lie may not even be something said often they present themselves in actions and ways of living inconsistent with an individual’s core principles and realities. Running up debt to appear more wealthy, living an almost secret life keeping it from people who are close to them especially family members, claiming to be of a certain group or faith with actions that do not match are common examples of this type of lie.
In corporate culture there is a whole culture of lying in many ways primarily used by corporations, their boards, executives and employees to get what they want, think they deserve, and the ever-present fight to stay employed with the company and show a profit. In the entertainment world storyline after storyline is based on people lying to one another. Let’s not even get started about politics. As such lying is something many have become numb to so what’s the big deal?
Over time I have come to realize that a fulfilling life is dependent on a series of equations. In the end, creating a fulfilling life really isn’t very subjective. It’s math. The difficult part is discovering and defining the variables.
1+2=3. Authentic You+relationship/situation=relative happiness and fulfillment.
If the result continues to come out as -5 a dissatisfaction then there is a missing or untrue variable somewhere in that equation.
It is easy for most people to embrace the idea that others are lying to them. There is no shortage of cynics in the world. One thing that is more threatening for people to face are the lies we tell and accept from ourselves. What is in it for us to lie to ourselves?
There are conscious and unconscious lies. Unconscious lies are more based in a desire for conformity to the cookie-cutter mold of being acceptable and “successful”. How many people make choices to fit into that stereotype of superficial success? Spend their days in a job they hate, subject themselves to painful surgery to look a certain way, hang out with people they don’t particularly enjoy because that’s what it takes. This unconscious lie is part of the pre-packaged life, there isn’t much thought or intention that goes with it.
Conscious lying has more to do with trying to rationalize a destructive pattern to make it seem benign to oneself in order to fit the idea someone has of themselves. For example, most people want to think of themselves as good people. They want to think of them selves as attractive and successful they have a customized picture of what that looks like. In addition, many have identified themselves with certain labels usually relating to a religion, ethnic, socio-economic, gender based, sexual oriented or any other of the many group slots that humans categorize themselves into.
In addition to defining self in relationship to the group and their personal standing with it, people also have realities that they want, at times desperately, to be true. This often has to do with relationships. The old adage about all being fair in love and war fits this ideal perfectly.
Back to the question why would we lie to ourselves? We lie to ourselves to try to make the equation balance out. Many people add variables to the equation to make it balance out. For example.
Person (1)+ in a relationship(2) (with a person who travels a lot and is emotionally unavailable(-8)= -5
So instead of finding a partner better suited to them that may not fit the idea of success planted in their head a person could add a variable such as.
( Person(1)+ in a relationship(2) (with a person who travels a lot and is emotionally unavailable(-8))+ shopping (8)=3
So the person is thinking Me(1)+ my relationship (2)=happiness (3) but they are not really happy they are compensating for their unhappiness with shopping or any other number of distractions.
People do this with jobs and any number of other things that they do to fit an inauthentic mold of themselves that has been created by the society and culture where they live. It might be fine if it worked. Yet often this type of compensated happiness feels hollow and tinny. It also tends to take constant attention and a lot of resources to maintain. People need to keep getting a fix of this artificial variable to keep the equation balanced.
This way of being is very often not sustainable and is often self-destructive. At some point a person looks back at the compromises from consciously deceiving themselves and feel regret instead of contentment and fulfillment about their life choices.
People who feel they did what they could to live their authentic lives and things still didn’t work out as hoped or planned to a varying degree may discover that in that case often they are unconscious of a lie that was told to them. From that point they can balance the equation by discovering the lie and removing it from the equation and recalibrating their choices to the new reality. Yet sometimes that is not possible an example of this is when the lie is from an institution, a group or government for instance. If a person cannot remove the lie from the equation it is still possible that to live in relative peace and contentment. To do so they will need to add a distraction or some source of happiness to the equation to balance out the lie and bring them back into the positive once again.
In the end honesty is the best policy. What lies have you been telling yourself and others and what can you do to irradiate these lies from your life and live a more authentic and fulfilling life?