This post is an elaboration of #1 from a list of things I learned early in life.
It’s not that I believe lying is immoral. It’s just highly counter-productive to most worthy goals. Let me add some substance to this.
- Lying runs contrary to the fundamental component of healthy relationships; trust based on consistent honesty. Because I immensely enjoy long-term relationships, I try to begin them as transparent as possible. Things that many people might hide out of fear of rejection, such as age, divorce and kids, I quite quickly reveal. Why jeopardize the beauty of life-long friendship with dishonesty? I am in weekly contact with several ex-girlfriends for this reason. The core trust and respect in our relationship did not evaporate when our relationship changed status. Tell me how deception can ever be a part of a meaningful relationship? Those who do not have the emotional maturity to handle any such facts can only offer you petty games, drama and anguish later on. Find someone who knows all you are, and loves you because of or in spite of it. It’s always worth the wait.
- Lying requires cognitive resources I don’t have. Reality is taxing enough. Keeping track of imaginary alibis and false histories is beyond my mental means. I’d rather employ my mental faculties for more fruitful enterprises.
- Lying limits your own self-esteem to the level esteem that you grant to other liars. Do you look up to those who have deceived you? Then, by all means, lie away. But if not, why would you want to become what you despise? This does not sound like a very promising route to happiness.
- Lying devalues your role as adviser. Telling a person what they want to hear while ignoring the long-term inplications that the misconception that you’re promoting will eventually catch up with you. Normally, people quickly catch on when you are just flattering them. If they don’t catch on quickly, you may find yourself surrounded by people who may become undesirable emotional burdens later. So, if I don’t like her dress, I tactfully tell her.
- Lying about yourself is an indication that you may take yourself too seriously. Light-hearted self-deprecation in which you reveal your mistakes and short-comings to others and laughing about it is a fairly strong sign of maturity. It also shows others that you have probably learned from your mistakes.
- Lying destroys reputations. Ever lose a romantic interest suddenly without explanation? If you’ve lived in Tokyo long, you know how small it is. Word eventually will get around. Some liars try to micromanage these situations by attacking those who have told others about the trail of deceit the liar has left behind. Are you married but lying about it? Don’t ever tell me I’m wrong in informing my friends about your deceit. Have you dealt dishonestly with others? I have no qualms about informing those I care about to protect them from you. Do you want to end your association with me because of my big mouth? Good riddance. My life is too full of kind-hearted people to give a damn. (Sorry about that tirade, but Tokyo just seems to have more than its share of these losers.)
Do I ever lie? Once in a while. The recipient is normally someone who deserves a bit of recompense. In these cases I feel not the slightest pang of guilt. So my general policy of inclusivity does have its limits, and deception is particularly annoying to me.
I’ve discovered that, when I relate the sundry sordid facts of my life, the most common response from others is their own honesty. This has worked for me so well, that I can’t image taking another approach.
This approach does tend to prune your social life. When I have a new girlfriend, I introduce her to my exes. Nearly every time I’ve done this, the girls have forged a friendship. (I will also meet my girlfriend’s exes. One invited me to their wedding.) Whenever one of my guy friends is acting less than mature, I’ll tell him so, even if I suspect he’ll end our friendship over it. But this type of pruning leaves you surrounded by the most amazing lovers and friends! Walking on eggshells is not any way to live a fulfilling life.
So let the chips fall where they may, but live life in all honesty.