09 Dec Honestly, telling the truth will make you feel better
How many times have you heard someone start a sentence with, ‘to be honest’? What runs through your mind? Do you brace yourself for what’s to come or prepare for the next words to sting a bit?
When someone says, ‘Can I be honest with you?’ Have you ever said anything but ‘Yes, of course you can’? What if you said ‘No, sorry I don’t want you to be honest with me’? Would they lie to you? Is the absence of honesty, dishonesty? Or do you have to lie to be dishonest?
In using such an expression are you are warning the person you are speaking to that they should get ready to hear something they might not want to? Is it for their sake or for ours? It could be that when we are saying something that might upset someone, we feel we need to give them a heads up and excuse ourselves for the impact of being truthful.
It could, however, just be a habit we have picked up from other people, such as parents or teachers. It could also indicate that you are not honest as often as you should be, so when you are going to really tell the truth you feel the need to announce it in advance!
Which begs the next question…Do you lie?
Do you tell lies?
You may be tempted to say no, but most people cannot honestly claim to have never lied, even if they only tell so-called white lies.
Most people will have told a white lie. It may not have been a blatant lie, perhaps more bending the truth, or missing out facts. Yet why is a little lie seen as ok if it is still really a lie?
Is there ever a good reason to lie? One reason you often hear is that a white lie is told to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Ask yourself if choosing to tell a white lie was really to spare someone else’s feelings, or was it about you instead? Was a lie told to stop you from feeling awkward about telling the truth? Sometimes being less than honest can come back to bite you. Even worse, small lies can snowball, leaving you needing to tell little lie after little lie until you lose track of the truth, or get caught out. Admitting to telling a lie can be far worse than telling the truth in first place.
“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”
Why do we lie and when does it begin?
Most people tell their first lie as child, usually to avoid getting into trouble for something. For example, saying you have eaten all your dinner or saying you have tidied up when the mess is hidden under the sofa.
Homework can be another easy time to drop a little lie – you haven’t done it but pretend you’ve left it at home. Lying in these circumstances is a sort of defence mechanism against not wanting to be in trouble. You know as soon as the lie leaves your lips that it is not the right thing to do, but it is too late, the lie is out, and you feel bad. Or you might feel relieved that you got away with it, and that sets up a reward loop leading you to do it more and more.
Some people get into such a habit of lying that you can’t trust anything they say. Lying has become a habit because they have got away with it so many times. It may not even be serving them anymore as people are wary of their tendency to lie, but it has worked for them in the past, so they repeat the pattern.
Consider how it feels when you are lied to. It doesn’t matter how big the deception is, it has a negative impact. You feel disappointed, angry, upset and betrayed. It feels awful and most people would rather they had just been told the truth.
“Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.”
The myth of the inconsequential lie
Gary King, lecturer on The Power of Truth, has said there is no such thing as an inconsequential lie. Sooner or later, it will have a consequence for you and possibly the person you lied to.
If you get found out it destroys the trust you had with the person you lied to. They might not want to have anything to do with you anymore. It might mean you are not able to join in with certain groups or activities any longer, or you could get into trouble. People may become upset and disappointed with you. You will, quite probably, be upset and disappointed in yourself.
Even if you are not found out, the act of being dishonest causes incongruity inside you. It can impact you in a negative way. Your unconscious mind knows it is not true and it may begin to cause an uneasy feeling inside you.
Not only do we feel better, earn respect and go up in people’s estimation when we build a reputation for being honest, it is actually good for our mental health and wellbeing when we tell the truth.
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Give away signs of lying
Experts in body language can notice changes in the body when people lie. Give away signs like touching your nose, covering your mouth or certain eye movements. While not a guarantee that someone is lying, they could be an indication.
Some people are good a hiding these signs, but internal changes can include an increased heart rate, a change in breathing and increased sweating. These are things that might be picked up by a lie detector test rather than a visual cue.
Human lie detector – try this exercise
There is even a theory that lying makes you physically weaker. To test this, try this with a friend.
Get them to stand up and put an arm out in front of them at shoulder height. Put two fingers on top of their outstretched wrist, ask them to resist you as you push down on their arm. This is a benchmark of their ability to resist you pushing down.
Next ask them to say their name. As they state their name push down on their wrist and get them to resist; you will find that they are pretty strong.
Next ask them to say a made-up name, push down on their wrist and get them to resist – you will find they are pretty weak and you can push their arm down.
“Three things cannot hide for long: the Moon, the Sun and the Truth.”
Choose the life you want to lead
Telling the truth is always the best option, so let’s test your commitment. Why not see if you can go for a whole week without telling a lie, even a little one, to yourself or anyone else. You might need to find kinder words to say, or more elegant ways of delivering the truth but be honest and tell the truth no matter what.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about lying. Please connect with Back on Track Teens through our social channels:
If you are looking for honesty in the world, make sure you can find it close to home as well.