The black death of white lies
I often get quite sad when I think about all the brain dead entertainment that is produced just to make money (and at the same time keeping us lazy and paralysed). But every once in a while I am reminded that there are still people out there working hard to make media productions that have the potential for changing our lives!
A couple of weeks ago I was listening to an episode of my favourite podcast Radiolab, while riding my bike to the office. It blew me away. Completely. And by the time I sat down at my desk, I knew I had some changes to make.
The topic of the podcast was deception, and the story that affected me the most was about an American scientist called Paul Ekman. After years of studying facial expression and body movement, focusing for instance on how lying is communicated through our body language, he made a very big decision. The day his first child was born, he promised himself that he would never again tell a lie.
Ekman is giving examples on how the habit of not lying has affected his relationships, his work and his self-confidence. By looking for a way to be truthful in every situation, he is learning a lot about himself and how he wants to live his life. Off course, there are difficulties, like every time his wife is wearing something dreadful, asking him for his opinion. Classical. But in the long run, telling the truth has made him feel happier, healthier, more authentic and more alive.
I found this story incredibly inspiring, and after hearing it I started paying more attention to my own words and habits. And to tell you the truth (pun intended), I was actually quite surprised to find out how much I lie. It’s not like I’m cheating or stealing or spreading false rumours about people behind their backs, my lies are whiter than that – but hey, they are still lies.
I’m cancelling appointments because I’m too lazy or tired, and I tell the people involved that I cancel on them because I have to work late. I’m telling my mom that I earn more money than I do, to keep her from worrying about my economy. I tell my colleagues that I have an important business meeting, when I’m actually just going for lunch with a friend. I say yes when I mean no, I leave things out, and I pretend to be a whole lot smarter than I am.
Why is it so hard to tell the truth?
Most of us are doing a pretty good job staying away from the big, fat, black lies, but avoiding the white ones is much harder. They are sneaky! And often very spontaneous, slipping out because we want to avoid embarrassing moments, to protect ourselves or other people, or to simply make us look better than we are. We are afraid of confrontations and disagreements. We are fleeing from commitment and responsibility. We are lying because it feels a lot safer, a lot more easy and definitely a lot more comfortable and convenient than admitting how things actually are.
Is it possible to live an entire life without lying? I don’t know. But I do know that Paul Ekman’s story affected me. And that I want to make a serious effort trying to extinguish the most stupid and unnecessary lies from my life. I might not succeed right away – things take time, especially when they are difficult. But I like the idea of being less insecure and weak, less afraid of confrontations and less scared of what other people might think.
So wish me good luck.
The future is frank, direct and brave!
Click here if you want to listen to the Radiolab episode about deception.
And here if you want to subscribe to the Radiolab Podcast.