Do you ever tell little white lies to protect someone’s feelings?
Little exaggeration lies to make yourself seem a little cooler?
Big, fat, hairy lies to save yourself from blame or humiliation?
If you answered “no! never!” then it sounds like you probably tell the most insidious form of lie there is: Lying to yourself to save yourself from having to deal with your own shame.
All humans lie sometimes. And we all sometimes lie to ourselves.
I grew up in a house where the little lie was just as normal as telling the truth. If my aunt was on the phone and asking if we were planning to come see her over the weekend, my father would say, “Tell her we’ve already made plans with the neighbors,” or “Tell her mom isn’t feeling well,” or something like that.
There was a greater taboo on the truth, “I’m just not in the mood to see them this weekend,” than the lie.
Now I’m not going to tell anyone that they are WRONG for telling lies– as I said, lies are simply normal behavior for us homo sapiens…
But what you need to know is that when you lie you make the depth and beauty of true intimacy impossible.
Now it doesn’t matter whether this is a friend, or a lover, or just another human that you intend to interact with with integrity and Truth. If you don’t go with the (often only SLIGHTLY less comfortable) truth, then you sacrifice truly knowing each other.
Women encounter this constantly with men who, at the end of the date, say, “this was fun, let’s do it again,” when, in fact, they never intend to see her again. And it’s pretty frustrating and deflating for her to wait for the phone to ring when you said you’d call because you didn’t have the quick moment’s courage to say you wouldn’t.
Women lie to other women when they say, “you look great in those pants!” to a friend who really can’t pull them off.
And everyone ends up the worse off… including the liar, who for the sake of avoiding having to FEEL some slightly negative tension, breaks the possibility of a deeper and more trusting relationship.
That already is a HUGE price to pay…
What they don’t know is that they are also sacrificing two very powerful and personal advantages:
1) The charisma, gravitas, and magnetic confidence that happens automatically when a person commits to living as truthfully as they can.
2) The self trust that develops from holding yourself to a standard of truth.
I was a constant casual liar. If I told someone the truth about anything, without altering even the slightest detail, it was probably just an accident.
When I committed to stop lying, the first thing I realized was that it FORCED me to live a life that I wasn’t ashamed to tell the truth about. This was hard, but intensely empowering.
It also forced me to begin holding more mature boundaries. If someone asked me something that I didn’t want to tell the truth about, since I was unwilling to lie, I might say something like: “That’s not something I’m comfortable answering.”
And much to my surprise at the time, it doesn’t chase people away when you do that. Having those mature and confident boundaries is both masculine and sexy to women… And if you’re a woman, it’s disarming and emotionally engaging for men.
When people begin to respect your truth and your boundaries, self trust flows.
The second thing I discovered was that many things that I was afraid to tell the truth about because I thought it would embarrass me or hurt others, and drive friends from my life, had the opposite effect.
People not only still liked me, they bonded with me MORE. And of course that resulted in even more self trust as I understood that I could navigate my life on my own terms.
Now what do you think the result of this is in terms of sexual attractiveness?
If you’re a man reading this, and not already living this way, you probably can’t begin to guess, much less imagine the difference switching on your masculinity in this way can make.
If you’re a woman reading this, and you are fed up with men who can’t emotionally open to you, I just handed you a very important key.
And if you’re up for a challenge, I highly recommend you give this a try.
As always, your questions and comments are welcome.
Well this is an issue with which I have personally struggled all my life. As you’ve pointed out prevarication is a very human quality. It is, after all, the very foundation of story telling and much of human literature. Even so called non-fiction, such as historical texts, scientific works and other academic pieces suffer from some form of bias and embellishment. So, this question of “do you lie?”, is itself a logistical conundrum that embodies the very nature of human perception, memory and what it means to “tell the truth”. Having that said then leaves me in total agreement with your premise that personal integrity must begin with a commitment to truth, honesty and a willingness to subordinate ones ego to a higher goal. Well done.
Thanks Paul. This is it exactly. It cannot be done perfectly, it is however a powerful practice.
I agree with your point 100%. I did not put it in such elegant terms but this is something that I have suspected for a long time. Thank you for putting this point out there.
Good shit dude. Your newsletters are one of the very few that I’ve kept among all the decluttering. Love your commitment to MAN! Manning up. Manpower. Manual drive. Ok I’m done haha. Cheers
Thank you Justin– I know who I save after de-cluttering, and I consider it an honor indeed!
I think this is really something important that we don’t talk about. I have talked with people about how I perceived the impact that lying has on our level of intimacy. It’s like a wall goes up between us and the person we lie to. Very nice!
Lying makes me feel bad and I don’t like to feel bad. Instead I tend to avoid topics and people which maybe worse than lying – I don’t know. I like your idea, Alex, of saying you’re not comfortable with some questions and maybe when it comes to intimacy it’s also ok to say I’m going to give that question some thought and get back to you on it. That way you’re not closing the door to the possibility of ever answering it and I like that.
Hey Leila, avoidance is its own thing… I don’t know if it’s worse, but it’s not good if you’re avoiding people you love. (There’s nothing wrong with avoiding people that don’t juice up your life. It’s a big planet, they’ll find other friends and so will you!)
I’ll tell you that “I’ll get back to you,” can be very, very hard to hear for someone who has emotion in the question. But if you truly need time to process, then YES! Have the courage to stick to your truth!
When I was talking about boundaries, I meant that sometimes it’s appropriate to say nothing, rather than to lie.
As a quick example, let’s say that I’m having raging sex with my wife and as a result I’m late for something that was important to my mother.
My mother says: “Where were you?! This was important to me!”
It’s easy to say something like, “oh, mom, I’m so sorry, the baby was sick and started throwing up everywhere, and then there was a fire on the stove, and I didn’t have a free hand to call and tell you I’d be late!”
That would work. My mother would accept it as a good excuse, she’d feel loved knowing it was a good reason, and I’d be off the hook for breaking my commitment.
Now the truth is, in the moment, the most loving thing I could do was nourish my relationship with my wife. And I might, in fact, just tell her the truth. But also, I might decide to keep the matter private.
Committing to truth in this case is simply understanding that I might owe my mother and apology, but I don’t owe her an explanation. I do have the option to simply say, “my reason is personal,” and be done with it. That is a mature boundary.
Now it takes ENORMOUS maturity and TRUST to be able to have that kind of boundary in your marriage, but when you do, you’ve got something very, very resilient and real.
True Alex it works, I’d sorry of resolved to do that too, Tho I still told the huge lies, anyway I’m up for the challenge
Excellent article, Alex, and this is a very interesting topic I’ve given much thought. The point about truthfulness forcing you to life a life you’re proud of, set more mature boundaries, and say “no” in an authentic way when necessary very much resonates. I’ve also found improvement in disagreeing without being disagreeable to come along with this. Such tendencies have also arisen as a matter of course with healthier living, which is another huge topic.
That said, I’d be lying to say I think truthfulness is always the best course of action. If I were hiding someone a mob of Nazis wants to kill because of their race, I obviously won’t tell them if they ask me. I had an interesting discussion about this with a friend whose ideas I value as greatly as anybody, who called it a “higher truth”, or some such, so highly is the concept of truth regarded. But I rather accept definitions as they are, and regard something like that as a necessary lie, and place truth on the next level below quality. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a book that speaks to me as much as any other, goes into this deeply.
In a more humorous vein, the only person I’ve known to tell a relative something they baked was lousy at a family gathering was clinically schizophrenic. Sometimes just a sincere expression of appreciation such as “Thanks for baking them” is more emotionally intelligent than a sitcom-worthy response such as “they were burned”. But, to your point of intimacy, if one’s partner is a lousy cook, private suggestions for improvement in the same spirit as one’s own self-improvement work might make for a better dinner with guests later.
I’m quite comfortable with the notion that leading as optimal a life as possible requires judgment calls, and not even truth in the strictest sense is strictly sacrosanct. Authenticity or standing in one’s own truth may be a better way of putting it. Again, an excellent and thought-provoking post.
Nice analysis! Agreed on the Nazi thing– obviously there are higher values than telling the truth sometimes, and as I also mentioned, all humans lie sometimes, and I suppose sometimes it is quite necessary.
On the bad baking however… I think there is a point of ease and clarity in saying that you appreciate the love they put into the effort of cooking it, but that it’s not to your taste. As someone who has been direct in this way, AND someone who often cooks for friends, I can promise that it all works out rightly!
Anxiety in telling the truth comes from one’s emotional dependence on what others say and feel about them. Living
honestly without overt concern about other’s thoughts and judgments — is what we all want to attain. This frees you to feel good and confident about your words and actions, without first having to consider the social impact of what your words might have on the other person and the reaction it may produce.
From my perspective, living truthfully can impact others in several different ways. Some will respect and admire you and may find this attractive, while some may respect and admire your commitment but yet consider you aloof, and there are other shallower people who will simply dislike you (probably because honesty is too intimidating for them). Most important I think is what living honestly means to yourself. It empowers your self confidence and frees you to pursue most anything in life – while knowing your capabilities and limitations (no self-deception).
Does this make one more attractive sexually or otherwise? From my view, this narrows the pool of people who will be attracted and attractive to you. Just my opinion….and thanks so much for all of your insight.
Hey Bruce, a solid analysis my friend. I’ll add 2 things for you:
1) Absolutely some people will find the honesty intimidating. However, while aloof (emotionally cut-off, or even Aspesrgers) people are sometimes bluntly honest, blunt honesty does not ever read as aloof if you are, in fact, a loving person. I have been told that I am intimidatingly obvious, and I have even given offense, but never aloof. I always following a magnetic compass of being loving to my fellow humans, and that has not interfered with my (imperfect, of course) commitment to the truth.
2) Does this make you sexually attractive? Try it the next time you are talking a woman you are personally attracted to. I think you’ll find the results very interesting to observe.
Alex allman my husband saw one of your videos about telling the truth and he gravitated toward this I wanted to get help about this as my marriage has entered a point where he wants out
Oh Lillian! I’m so sorry to hear that. The truth, like life, can sometimes be incredibly painful.
Because this is a public forum, and because more than half of marriages (and substantially more long term relationships where the couple is not married) eventually end… I’ll take the opportunity to say that the end of a relationship is always very painful and complicated, even when it’s the right thing, even when it’s the honest thing.
The price for Truth can be incredibly high and often other people that we love also have to pay the price for our personal truth, which seems incredibly unfair at face value. Now there is no certainty about the future or how things affect individuals, but most of the time, the Truth turns out better for everyone, including the people it hurts. Most of us don’t want to be infantalized and “protected” from the truth, most of us would prefer not be lied to, even when it hurts.
And of course, I can’t possibly know anything about your individual circumstance and your marriage, so I won’t comment on how you feel about it– but I do deeply hope that the Truth will give you a foundation to potentially remake your marriage on the basis of real intimacy and knowledge of each other’s internal worlds.
I have taken the step of sending you a private message. Please don’t feel any obligation to reply, but it’s there if you’d care to talk further.