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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Lies, damn lies,sweet little lies and the policy of truth

I was listening to Depeche Mode: Policy of Truth today.  I'm not sure I totally agree with the message, but it was an interesting take.  There are consequences associated with telling the truth.  Specifically, we live with the consequences of what we reveal, whether it is a truth or a lie.  So, just because you are speaking a truth doesn't mean it needs to be revealed.  As we know some things are better left unspoken.

So, it occurs to me what is lying, what is telling the truth, when is not telling a truth lying--a lie of omission--and when is it just overthinking a situation. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I have some ideas.

Some thoughts on "Lies"
  • Typically people know in their heart when they are being dishonest.  Sometimes it is only to themselves.  Sometimes it is to others.
    • Lies can harm your relationship with others.  
    • Lies typically harm your relationship with yourself (and your Higher Power) as you damage your character and self-respect, even if you are too conceited to realize it.  
      • Lying breeds more lying and being caught up in a destructive cycle.
      • Lying can spiritually destroy us as it effectively separates us from our Higher Power (God) who knows better.
  • A lie can be a lie, even if what is spoken ends up being the truth.
    • If you mistakenly believe what you are saying is a lie and knowingly push it to deceive others, then in your heart you have lied.
    • Even if you tell others a truth and they know its a truth, but they also know that you mistakenly believe what you are saying to be a lie, from how I see it, it has the effect of a lie,  That is, they know that your intent was to deceive them. 
  • If what you are saying is truthful, but you get something wrong, then even if it ends up being not the truth, then it functionally isn't a lie.  It is a mistake.
    • Unfortunately, if your audience doesn't know your intent, they can believe you to be lying.
    • It is important to set a good track record of honesty so that your audience will give you the benefit of the doubt when you make a mistake.
  • In my humble opinion, a little white lie is still a lie--an outfit looks bad but you say it looks good.  Similarly, a socially accepted lie is still a lie such as Easter bunny, tooth fairy, etc.
    • We typically cut people slack with these because usually we know they are trying to do the right thing.
    • We typically cut people slack with these because we don't consider them a 'big deal'.
    • If you have a history of lying, once again, you are less likely to be cut slack on little white or socially accepted lies.
  • Being unrealistic to yourself and others can actually be a lie.  
    • If you know in your heart that their is probably no way you can keep a commitment, even if it isn't a 'true lie' can have the same damaging effect of a lie.
      • At best, you can expect to be considered unreliable.  (not dependable)
      • You may be considered delusional or unrealistic.      (dishonest to self)
      • At worst, you can be considered insincere, if not downright dishonest. (dishonest to others)
    • If you make a commitment to others that you should know you can't keep (grandiosity) it has much the same damaging effect (lie).
      • Once again, unreliable.
      • Once again, delusional/unrealistic.
      • Once again insincere, if not downright dishonest.
      • In a way, though you may know your intentions are decent, that isn't always obvious to others.  That's where your history can help (or hurt) you.

Some thoughts on "Truths"
  • People in their heart also tend to know when they are being truthful.  
    • Being truthful can help your relationship with others as they know that your word means something.
    • Being truthful can help your spiritual life.
      • You don't have to spend negative energy dealing with the consequence of lying--the need to cover for the lies with more lies.
      • You can face your Higher Power (God) in good conscience.  That is, you don't have to worry about the 800lb gorilla in the room in dealing with your HP.
  • Just because something is true, doesn't mean it needs to be spoken.  You have to look under the surface sometimes to determine if it should. Examples...
    • Does it clear the air where it needs to be cleared.  For example, you run into an old 'friend' and talk.    
      • It may be wise just to speak on it just to avoid any appearance of hiding anything.
      • If you speak on it, and your significant other hears about it from a common friend later, they have context.
    • Sometimes expressing a truth is helpful just to let your significant other know you care.  While something may some unimportant to you, sometimes it is nice for them to know that you care and are paying attention.  Such as giving helpful but not controlling advice.
    • Is it extraneous or background noise.  Something that could be distracting to the more important things or conversations in life.  For example, if you don't like an outfit your significant other is packing or wearing, but they like it, unless there is something really wrong with it, expressing your truth could be construed as rude.
  • If you believe something to be true and in good faith act on that truth, it can have the effect of confirming your honesty, even if it ends up not being true.
    • If you can show it mistake and an honest one, you can still come out looking like you had good intentions.
    • If they see that you were trying to be helpful, even if the help is in the wrong direction, people can still observe your desire to be helpful (but perhaps a little mistaken).
    • Your history and the harmlessness of what you believe to true can make the difference on how your mistake is taken.
  • While truthfulness is a good thing, I believe there are times when it can be overdone.  I don't mean lying so much as revealing everything without filter.
    • When it is done for show or to gain support or empathy.
      • I believe revealing should be organic and spiritually sound.
      • It should not be done to show your 'holiness' or 'better than thou'.
      • It should not be done out of a craven need for attention (unless it is a cry for help)
    • When it is done to verbally vomit in the case of a guilty conscience.
      • When making amends, it is not necessarily fair to just dump on the aggrieved party just to clear your conscience, especially if they are not open to it.  In your desire to 'come clean', you can injure another.
      • If it is done to just clear your conscience and not as a step in helping others and/or healing, it can be very selfish.  An analogy is irresponsibly spending money and having someone bail you out, just so you can go back to recklessly spending again.

Lies of Omission vs. Overthinking
  • Most people think a lie of omission to have some or all of the following characteristics:
    • Intention to mislead another by withholding some or all information on a subject matter.
    • It is driven by a fear or 'guilt' in revealing something, even if the subject of  reveal shouldn't be big deal.
    • There are or have been multiple opportunities to reveal the subject matter with little or nothing being said on it. 
      • In other words, it is not forgetfulness.
      • In other words, it is something that should have been eventually revealed but hasn't been.
    • When the subject matter (or something close to it) is brought up, the subject is changed by the person who is omitting. 
    • An example is if you ran into an old flame at the mall and sat down and got a quick bite and talked for 30 minutes, not really thinking too much of it.  If you failed to tell your significant other initially and in subsequent conversations on dating, you failed to mention it, this could be considered a lie of omission.
  • Ultimately a lie of omission is withholding something that you should probably say.  But, like anything you can overthink this too.  Examples:
    • If you ran into a friend of the opposite gender from third grade (that they never developed a relationship with) and completely blanked on mentioning it, there is a good change that it wasn't a lie of omission.
    • If you are fixing something around the house, but fail to mention details about your work on it to your significant other, it's probably not a lie of omission.  Chances are that you probably are just feeling like you are leaving out unimportant details.


In all this discussion, for me the most important factor lying/truth-telling is intent.  If you believe something to be lie and intend to deceive, it really doesn't matter if it is or not.  You've shown your hand.  If you believe something to be true and defend it as if it were, I can overlook if it is false, if it appears to be an honest misunderstanding or mistake.  If you don't want to break your child's imagination or spirit, perhaps not saying what you actually believe on Santa or the Easter Bunny is 'forgivable'.  If you don't want to come across as rude over some small matter to a friend or a loved one, perhaps keeping a thought or 'truth' to yourself isn't a bad thing.  If it is clear that you are hiding something that should be said--even if it just for clarity and shouldn't be a big deal--I'm going to be concerned and possibly annoyed or irate.  If you clearly withholding to mislead me, I will be upset and/or mad.  If it is an unnecessary detail or is obvious case of forgetfulness, then I probably won't think too much of it.  You don't have to reveal all the details of everything in your past or present life.  Just be open with me on the important stuff, don't leave me with the sense that you are tying to hide things (whether or not you should have 'guilt' on them or not), and if you don't feel like talking about something at the moment, but just honest about it.  

All that being said, I've had people in my life who weren't in the best place and couldn't find it in themselves to be open with me.  I understand people have demons and I try not to take it personally.  I'm far from perfect on that score so as long as they eventually 'come around', I can usually find a place for them in my life,  It is when they continue in that mode long after it is time to just talk to me that I find it hard to deal with them.  My Higher Power (God) offers me forgiveness when I have no right to expect it, so who am I to deny to it others.  However, my understanding is He doesn't like to be mocked either.  To me that means that while you can forgive someone who won't 'come around' with you, it is hard to have a relationship with that person.

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