The Discipline of Truth-Telling

Photo by  Caleb Woods

Photo by Caleb Woods

Living a life free from lies.

We all lie. Whether subconsciously or even consciously to others, the mind must generate an intense degree of negativity to do so. 

Therefore, every time we lie, we are directly and immediately punished by the laws of nature. 

Even if we’re not caught or found out, lies eat at us. They enforce a message that the truth, or our truth, is substandard, and lead to consequences in day-to-day living that compound until we make a change.

I Still Lie 

No matter how small the scale, I still catch myself spinning stories in ways so habitual that I often don’t realize it’s happening until after-the-fact. 

The deeper I, and we, fall into habits like this, the harder it is to change. 

There are a myriad of reasons that I lie and have lied, but the action is virtually always centered around some aspect within myself that I believe to be lacking. 

I lie with the belief that the truth of who I am, what I’ve done, or of the situation in which I find myself is not “good” or worthy of acceptance. 

Inability to express my truth, whether it be for perceived social consequences or some other such fear, is downright disempowering. 

And no one wants to lie. 

But when so normalized within the context our culture, discipline is required for change.

Easier Said Than Done?

Lies are deeply engrained. 

They’re scapegoats that help us avoid the fear and possibility that our truth may lead us to be alienated, ridiculed, or otherwise hurt. 

Interestingly enough, lying (as I’m sure any of you reading this know quite intimately) doesn’t feel good at all. 

In fact, it actually often leads to those same feelings that we were trying to avoid by telling a lie in the first place. 

Lying sucks in the moment, and it certainly doesn’t feel any better afterwards. 

Yet when we’re conscious of this fact, and often aware of lies even as we spin them, it follows that this is not a habit that is easily broken. 

Because lying can be so habitual, and because our craving of acceptance, love, and respect from others is such a strong survival mechanism, it takes work to adopt better habits.

So how can we do this? 

Techniques for Truthtelling

Re-patterning any automated tendency requires some degree of discipline, and such is the case with the discipline of truth-telling. 

This can start in many ways, but something that has worked for me is to first examine a thematic lie, one that comes up often and in different ways, and unpack it. 

Questions for Self-Inquiry

I ask myself why I’ve perpetuated this lie, when I’ve been most likely to repeat it (the circumstances, types of people I’m around etc.) and where I feel the lie in my physical body. 

It’s often in my gut. 

Pros and Cons 

I then jot down the positives, whether imagined or real (most often the former) that the lie brings me, as well as the consequences. 

The benefits are often centered around acceptance. It’s part of story-telling, hoping that a lie will make me look cool

These are often small details yet are things that I am convinced, in the moment, will be the thing that makes people love and accept me (often those that already unconditionally do). 

The negative aspects of lying are, understandably, generally far more extensive. 

If you live a life with lies, and I speak from experience, it can be energetically exhausting. 

Keeping them all straight in your head, having an unwillingness to blend different people/groups in your life for fear that they find out your flaws and see you as you are, and just generally not feeling like a good person.

When lies become interwoven in relationships, it can feel difficult or even impossible to get out of them. 

It’s Never Too Late 

It’s never too late to speak the truth. 

I’ve gotten into the practice of speaking to stories I’ve told that are untrue. 

As and when they come up, I’ve begun to exercise the mental muscle of simply saying: 

Hey man…that was a lie. I said it because of XYZ (e.g. I wanted your respect, love, etc.) and I’m sorry. 

Manning up and saying “I lied” is difficult. 

But its a hell of a lot better than the guilt and shame.

So, whether in a professional or personal relationship, it is important that we tell the truth of lies past, and endeavor to strengthen our truth telling muscles in the moments to come.

This is an exercise. A literal exercise. The only way to tell the truth consistently and without hesitation is to keep practicing. 

Lying is a Sort of Insanity

When I add untrue facts to stories with the absurd belief that it is those little details that dictate someone’s love of me, it’s as if my story, my true story, is not enough. 

We lie because of our perception of perception. 

Everything we think others desire to hear is merely our idea of what they want to hear. 

In truth, everyone just wants to hear exactly that: truth.

Lying is essentially insanity. It is to say that things are not as you know them to be. 

And I get it. It can be so hard to break the patterns.

We can get comfortable with stories, or limiting beliefs, and the things we tell ourselves about why we won’t be loved or accepted that then manifest themselves in the world as a result.

Unfortunately, I haven’t come up with a magic formula to start telling the truth. 

I can’t offer you some sage advice that will magically transform you into an uncompromising truth-teller.

What I can do, however, is convey the monumental difference that telling the truth, no matter how difficult, has had on my life.

I rather frequently find myself caught In petty lies or stories that aren’t true, facing the always uncomfortable decision of coming clean and saying “I lied”.

Strengthening this muscle is actually possible. The more it’s done, the less the opposite is even an option.