People don’t start out being liars, I think. It happens over time in all sorts of ways. Maybe telling the truth gets you into trouble. Maybe telling the truth could hurt someone. Maybe telling the truth is too scary. Maybe telling a few lies digs a hole that you can’t get out of. Maybe it’s even a bit thrilling to lie and be secretive about stuff.
I don’t know about any of you, but I have found in my life that being lied to is one of the worst feelings in the world. Any pain it might save initially is tripled when the truth comes out. That feeling of betrayal, embarrassment, shame, lack of trust in oneself, of feeling stupid—yuck! As a result of my own experiences, I’ve made it a hard habit to try to never lie. It’s hard!
A lie can be as simple as answering “Fine” when someone asks how you are when in fact you feel truly terrible inside; as insidious as withholding important information and downplaying its importance when it actually could make all the difference in the world to you; or as complicated as telling someone at work that he or she is doing a great job when you know that employee’s days at the job are numbered. As hard as it is, I think it’s better to tell the truth. Because not knowing is even worse than believing the wrong thing.
We can’t change other people or make them tell the truth. And as many Internet articles as there are about how to spot a liar, you still may never know if someone is truly telling you the truth. All you can do is tell your OWN truth.
The saddest thing is when I see people stuck in a lie that they don’t know how to get out of—or worse, maybe don’t even want to get out of. In their minds, it may be good for someone—but is it really? Has anyone ever liked being lied to? These are my hard-learned little steps towards telling the truth.
1. Don’t swallow it if it doesn’t taste good. If someone says something or does something that you don’t like or that doesn’t feel good, try saying something like, “I really didn’t like that,” “It didn’t make me feel good when you said that,” or “I would rather you not tell me to do this or that.” It might seem little, but unstopped, these are the little lies that add up to one day looking at your life and realizing you’re living the big one, the big lie.
2. Ask a question. It could be something small like, “Did you really enjoy that?” or something big like, “What makes you happy?” Or it could be a pointed question, such as, “Did you mean to ignore me when you invited your sister to stay with us for three months without asking if I minded?” Or something big like, “Does it bother you that we don’t have fun together anymore?” Sometimes asking a question starts the conversation that makes it easier to get your own truth out.
3. Trust yourself. Believe that it’s safe and OK to share your feelings or your thoughts. You have a right to express your honest opinion and, in fact, if you don’t, you can start to disconnect from what you really want or love or even like. What’s the worst that can happen? Something might change. And change is almost always for the better because the universe does not move backward, it only ever moves forward. Remember that.
4. Write it down, write it out, send it. Sometimes the truth is tangled and complicated and it’s hard for even you to figure out exactly what it is. It can really help to write it out. Write a letter or a card or a note. Even if it’s just an invitation to have the conversation where a truth will occur, getting prepared and setting a deadline will help you get through it. This is especially true when it comes to feelings, which are truths of a very special nature. If you don’t tell the truth about your feelings, you can end up living a life that is half lived, filled with missed opportunities for happiness and growth.
5. Say it with love. Just because you say it with love doesn’t mean someone won’t be angry, but again, you can only control your own truth. When the cloud of anger fades, at least someone might have truly heard what you meant to say.
6. Ask for help. It could be anything from asking a professional to help you get through telling the truth to appealing for understanding from the person you’re communicating with. You might say, “I need your help and understanding because I’m about to tell you something you may not want to hear and that is hard for me to say.” If that doesn’t get their attention, then not much will.
7. Be honest with yourself first. Spend some time really trying to understand why you have lied. Think about how it might have felt to be the other person. Try to really figure out what you want from your own life. Be ruthlessly truthful about what that is. Don’t worry about what other people might think. As “good” a person as you think you might be, if you don’t live your own truth, then your whole life might be a lie, right?