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Friday, April 28, 2017

Lies and Untruths

Written by  Janan Broadbent, Ph.D.

The White House? No, your relationship!

Lying is one of those powerful words that did not use to be thrown around too frequently, though more easily used in the personal context. The influence of social media brought in a more user-friendly version of the concept. Anonymously, people could hurl this accusation around in addition to personal insults. Then came that moment when a congressman yelled, “You lie!” to the highest office holder in this land and in the world. Maybe that is when, paradoxically, there was a crumbling of the strong effect of this word.

Not only the Ten Commandments, but pretty much all religious beliefs condemn lying. Be that as it may, the current state of the world seems to include a casual attitude towards those who lie with no apparent shame. The political world is responsible for this but, hey, how can we deny that as individuals, we have responsibility, too. So how do you handle lying, sins of omission, and sins of commission, in your life? How easy or difficult is it for you to lie? Now let me be the first one to acknowledge that we all lie, sometimes big ones, and other times, “white” lies. Who hasn’t replied to an invitation with a “can’t make it because it is my mother’s birthday” or some such made-up fact?

Let’s look at how being dishonest works in a relationship. Are there situations when you made a deliberate choice not to tell the truth? If so, what were those factors? For example, my best friend confided in me. Do I share that with my partner? If not, am I lying? If I did something that my partner would be upset about, do I tell? One classic example is when one has a one-night stand. Do you want to share this information to clear your conscience, or do you take it to your grave, provided that you have an otherwise healthy relationship? Such ethical dilemmas present us with tough choices.

For most people, acknowledging to one’s self that one is lying is not comfortable. Let me be clear: There are those who make it a habit as part of their pathology and do not experience cognitive dissonance because emotionally, they convince themselves that it is either not a lie or is justified. As one media commentator remarked, you can switch from one thing to another with ease when you have no core beliefs, and therefore, no realization or care that this is lying and unacceptable.

Fear lies at the root of avoiding truth. When I ask people why they didn’t tell the truth, I hear it is because one did not want to deal with the reaction to it.

There may be other consequences to admitting to the reality as in legal and social areas. Aside from that, when it is a relational matter, you have to take a good long look at what work you need to do to make the connection healthier, stronger, and joyful.

If you partner’s anger, disappointment, or sadness is what you don’t want to deal with, what is the partnership about? Don’t we all seek the emotional support that comes from having that hand to hold? Trust yourself and the other to get through tough times. And consider what you get from your relationships and friendships and what you give back. Those gifts come from nurturing the truth.

Send comments/questions to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or on Twitter @DrJananB.

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