“The bird’s chick watches its mother fly before it can fly.” – Akan proverb
Our relationships thrive on trust. Team-working, collaboration and everything that involves more than only you depends on trust. This makes trust the most valuable currency in all relationships. Interestingly, many among us struggle with it for many different reasons. Whatever the reasons are, we need to appreciate that in all relationships – social, economic and political – it is important for all parties to trust and be trusted.
We need to be human, which is a willingness to be open and vulnerable with each other. Ideally, we need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of all involved in the relationship. But we have created a competitive world, wherein everyone is striving to hide their vulnerability and project only their strengths – a situation that encourages lies and lying.
Sad as it might be, lies and lying are an integral part of our culture. We are not talking about ‘white lies’: it is more to do with lives deeply woven around lies. The ones which allow people to look better in others’ eyes; and those who tell them do so comfortably because it gives them an advantage that makes them feel better about themselves lying. And because we do not carry out punitive measures against those who lie, lying has become cancer in our society. Interestingly, our daily interactions indicate we are comfortable living with such a terminal disease.
No matter how good a lie may sound in a moment, its consequences are detrimental to the persons involved in the relationships, our society and ultimately our humanity. It generally erodes trust – the currency we need most in our social, economic and political relationships. Lying depletes our self-worth. It is sign we do not necessarily like who we are at the moment and project the image that we are not ‘good’ individuals. It is true that many of us lie because the truth sounds harsh in the ears of people. But every lie is a testament that we value dishonesty over honesty.
We all lie. Think about how often we lie to our young ones. And the worst part is we actually want our own children to swallow our lies as truth. How pathetic can we be? And we repeat those lies in the workplace, on political platforms and in the pulpit. Maybe we have not thought it through, but lying is socially contagious – in that when people see the precedent that dishonesty is appropriate/accepted, they are more likely to lie themselves. Maybe we enjoy lying and being lied to. We enjoy being sick. But our little lies have shaped our culture and affected our businesses, and ultimately the economy. Nevertheless, we are not ready to remedy it because we do not believe integrity plays any role in progress. So, the lying continues unabated.
Whenever we get away with a lie, we experience what psychologist term the ‘duper’s delight’ or ‘cheater’s high’. We can talk about all the negatives of lying, but many of us feel an irresistible thrill when we take a risk at lying and get away with it. This is irrespective of whether the one we lied to was someone we had contempt for or one we admired. A delight quivers within us as if we have accomplished a feat, and very often we congratulate ourselves and actually seek admiration for our exploits. That is the depth of negativity ‘lies and lying’ is imbuing in all of us.
Life is for all of us. Our Creator deigned us to live well with each other. This vision has become impracticable, because we have made deception a necessary act for our everyday interactions. We know our ‘lies and lying’ hurt ourselves, yet we struggle to do away with it. For example, the information we pass along in our lies prevents us from making informed decisions.
Our lies engineer decisions and solutions that would otherwise be better if the truth was presented. We are destroying ourselves with our lies. Over the years, our little lies have cumulated into a huge lie governing our systems and society. We have dug our own grave, and we are scared to come out of it. We lie to each other knowing very well that everybody knows we are lying, yet we keep lying for reasons nobody can really understand.
As Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of America and a philosopher wrote to Peter Carr on August 19, 1785: “He who permits himself to tell a lie once finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to them, and truths without the world believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions.” Such is the damage our ‘lies and lying’ does to us, all of us. Learning to tell the truth all the time will not be easy, but as the old adage goes, “the truth will set us free”; and indeed we would be free to live freely and justly, and our humanity will flourish like sunflowers at sunrise.
Kodwo Brumpon is an author, a life coach and a philanthropist who inspires individuals, groups and organisations to think and feel that which is true by helping them to positively respond to that which is beautiful, while nudging them to let goodness govern their actions.
Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]