You can be honest and kind, because your purpose in telling the truth is not to offend people. You simply want them to have the information you have and would want to have if you were in their shoes. Sam Harris in Lying
I’ve never examined if and how telling white lies still impacts my life until I read Sam Harris’ article on Lying. I grew up into a people pleaser and a conflict avoider—white lies were a part of running that show. The more confident I’ve become, the fewer the white lies. And Buddhist teachings have helped in pushing me to face conflict with others bravely and compassionately. After reading this article, I’ve been considering how all lies add unnecessary stress and erode trust.
The kind decline
In my i’ll pass post, I wrote about how I no longer feel guilty saying no to requests or invites—and so I don’t invent or embellish an excuse—I simply say “I’ll pass.” I do not need to provide details on whether I already have other plans or not.
The spared feelings
I learned to white lie to spare the hurt feelings I guessed other people might have and to say what I guessed they wanted to hear. It’s exhausting. Having my own feelings is difficult enough. And it’s hard to keep straight what “version” of the truth I tell and to whom.
Life is simpler and my relationships far better without that hornets’ nest. With MF, if I want his opinion on something—an action I’m considering, an article of clothing, a blog post—I know I will get his honest opinion. If I’m feeling fragile or think I might not like the answer, I simply don’t ask the question. Period. It’s my responsibility.
The deflect reflex
On Monday, my dental hygienist asked if I had seen a particular celebrity news story that day. I had, but I noticed how I wanted to say “no” for two reasons: I’m embarrassed to admit I read some celebrity news and I didn’t want to be asked next for my opinion on it. I said “yes.”
Although my ego’s first reaction to a mistake I’ve made is to want to soften it, bravery is required. A few years ago, I fucked up at work by forgetting to send a communication that impacted a schedule that many others were relying on. There was no one else to blame. I quickly confessed my failure and apologized in an email without listing any excuses. I was a little nervous sending this email, but knew it was the right thing to do. The respect I gained from one young colleague alone was worth the discomfort.
Honesty is a gift we can give to others. It is also a source of power and an engine of simplicity…We can simply be ourselves in every moment. Sam Harris in Lying.
The compassionate action often is being straightforward, speaking a blunt truth or saying no. What helps me is keeping the intent to be “honest and kind” in mind. It has not been without challenges, mishaps, and failures. I still have work to do in areas where I have difficulties being direct (I may not lie, but I avoid and evade!). I have consciously set an intention: no more lies, no matter how tiny or white.