Do you know how to embrace truth in your life? You may think, “Sure! I’m always honest.”
As I often point out to our students at the Wright Foundation, everyone lies. In fact, we may get so used to bending the truth that we don’t even recognize when we’re lying. Think of the last time you were late somewhere. What did you say?
“Traffic was crazy,” or,” Sorry, I got held up at the office.”
Are those statements really truthful, though? If you had left ahead of time, would you be late? If you valued the meeting enough, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to get there on time, come hell or high water?
The thought of responding, “I didn’t care enough to get here on time,” or, “I knew you’d wait, and I don’t value your time very much,” sounds almost laughable and harsh, right? But isn’t it the truth?
Now, it’s not only about punctuality and showing up when you say you’re going to. There are many instances when nearly everyone lies. Think you’re the exception? Think again.
As I tell our students during More Life Training, anyone who tells you they aren’t a liar is demonstrating that they’re an unconscious liar. In fact, they may not even realize it. They may genuinely believe what they’re saying. They don’t consider the excuses or justifications to be lies. After all, don’t we all tell white lies? Little lies? Half-truths?
On average, people lie about seven times an hour. We’re lied to around 200 times a day. College students lie in about 50% of their talks with their parents. 80% of people lie on their resumes. 41% of college students lie to get a job. 70% of doctors lie to insurance companies. 71% of people keep secrets from their spouse. Everyone lies when they go on dates. (I often cringe when I think of the ways I tried to look good to Judith when we started dating.)
Think about it. The last time someone asked you what you thought of their presentation; you probably said, “It was terrific!” But was it?
Or the last time someone asked, “how was your weekend,” what was your response? “It was fine,” or “It was good.” Or perhaps you say something humorous, “Not long enough!”
Chances are, you don’t say your weekend was mediocre, lonely, dull, or unmemorable. You didn’t admit to binge-watching Netflix, skipping the shower, or eating a pint of ice cream.
In fact, we’ve become so used to these little lies that it’s actually jarring when someone gives us an honest answer. When we ask someone how they are and they tell us the truth, we may feel taken aback and startled. We don’t know how to respond. We’re so used to the canned, go-to answers we expect.
The result is we’re all milling around, telling others these half-truths and questioning the validity of our true feelings. We may have had a crappy weekend. We might think the presentation stunk. We may not be having a good day.
On the flip side, we may suppress our urge to get too exuberant with our answers, as well. When someone asks us how we’re doing, we rarely reply, “Spectacular!” Again, it feels almost comical to respond with such enthusiasm, right? But by not sharing our truth, we’re diminishing our joy. We’re putting our true feelings aside to offer up an answer we’ve deemed normal or acceptable.
The real question is, why do we lie so much?
The short answer is because we’re so used to it, we do it automatically. We’re wandering around unconscious (or half-conscious), and we actually believe what we’re saying. Why do we believe these lies? We have what Freud called an ego ideal. We call it a false self—the way we want the world to perceive and see us.
Each of us has what’s called the accepted self and the denied self. We tell lies to cover up our denied self and present our preferred or idealized image to others (as well as ourselves). Another way to think of it is a narcissistic image—it’s the image we want to see in the mirror. We lie to manage perception.
We may believe gossip over facts. In fact, we may believe a lie and the circumstances around a lie so adamantly, we refuse to see even the most obvious truths.
One of my heroes, Will Schutz, Ph.D., wrote a book called The Truth Option. He says, “To be truthful and honest is a fascinating adventure. I find it a task of extraordinary difficulty. A lifetime of learning not to speak the truth, combined with a real difficulty in knowing what, in fact, is true of me, makes living the truth a formidable challenge. The rewards are remarkable. I find I must relearn over and over again how really effective truthful living is, but virtually every time I am honest with myself and others, I end up feeling exhilarated. Some of the body tensions that keep me from being fully open let go. I feel a little freer and lighter and breathe a little deeper.”
He goes on to say, “Approaching a person with the intention of really being honest often reminds me of taking a cold shower. The anticipation is frightening. The initial impact shocking, and the outcome refreshing, cleansing, and invigorating.”
It begins by acknowledging the truth to ourselves and accepting what we’re afraid of. Maybe it’s rejection, loneliness, embarrassment, intimacy, or something else that frightens us. So we build up insulation by offering the answers we think others want to hear, and the answers we want to give and hear ourselves.
When I was growing up, my father and uncle got into a huge fight (I was about five-years-old). This was a real knock-down, drag-out battle. I remember my father had a black eye the next day, but the situation was never mentioned or discussed. My mom, sister, and I were aware something had transpired, but we all pretended everything was status quo.
I’ve talked to so many people who have similar stories with their families. Whether it’s an incident that was never discussed, a family secret, or unexpressed feelings, many of us learn, we should sweep these situations and feelings under the rug and move forward.
I often share this story during our More Life Training, and people always come up to me after and tell me how much they appreciate my sharing the truth. They often relate very similar experiences.
We’re all human beings, and we’re all flawed. It’s perfectly okay. Not one person is without flaws. So imagine what life would be like if we could all identify and accept those flaws. How much more would we learn and grow, from looking at who we truly are, rather than who we’re not?
As I work with my coaching clients, we often look at a particular goal they want to achieve. It seems many people quickly identify their big goal but can’t pinpoint what exactly the goal will do for them. They want wealth so they have freedom, but they already have all the freedom in the world if only they’d step forward and take advantage of it. They want respect and affection. They want to be liked by others. But they don’t realize liking and respecting yourself comes at a much lower cost.
Judith has an exercise when she works with people where she has them express what they want rapid-fire, and they go through “want, want, want.” Then she has them express what they really YEARN for. Yearning is to be seen, to be known, to be acknowledged to be affirmed. We explore how yearnings are deeper than wants—the longings of our soul. People often see their yearnings as something distant that they must strive for.
We serve students from all different backgrounds and faiths. One quote that resonates with all students is from Fr. Gregory Elder. He tells us we all yearn to see the unconditional love of Jesus (or God, or the universe, if you prefer). The only thing keeping us from feeling the loving, adoring, accepting glance is that we’re afraid to look into those loving eyes because we have already judged ourselves and thought that the loving God was the one judging us.
No matter your faith, you can see how we often long for acceptance and love from the world around us, but we block the love, believing we’re unworthy. By our very humanity, we’re worthy.
So, how do we start to look at ourselves as worthy? How do we embrace the truth and get the love and truth we deserve?
It starts by discovering and committing to truth. Challenge yourself to answer truthfully the next time you are asked a question, results be damned. If someone asks what you think, what you want, or how you are, tell them the honest answer.
Stop lying to yourself. Acknowledge you are worthy of the truth and express the truth in all situations.
Moreover, listen to the feedback of others—even the difficult truths you don’t want to hear. That’s one of the biggest struggles we all have. There are truths others offer that we don’t want to hear. Sometimes these are positive attributes we may not believe. Other times, they may be truths we’d prefer to ignore.
Truth isn’t frightening. It simply is the reality. The sooner we embrace the truth, the sooner we will feel free to live in harmony with our true selves. Let’s all resolve to embrace truth in the new year!
For more on living your best life, please visit the Wright Foundation. Please join us for an upcoming More Life Training, where you’ll learn more truths about yourself and others. Go forth and ignite your world!
The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.