It doesn’t matter whether you are a Game of Thrones fan or not (promise, I won’t hold it against you if you’re not), but in the season seven’s finale that aired last week, Jon Snow had to make a decision: lie and potentially get Queen (From Hell, as I like to call her) Cersei to join forces with Daenerys Targaryen and The North in the fight against the Army of the Dead or tell the truth and risk antagonising Queen (From Hell) Cersei. Which he did. Told the truth that is. And yes, it did antagonise Queen (From Hell) Cersei, but that wouldn’t have mattered because she wasn’t up for saving the world anyway. He got told off by his allies for telling the truth and risking the fate of the entire Seven Kingdoms, but ‘If we don’t mean the words we say,’ said Jon, ‘ what value do the words have then?’ [Here, I promise, my Game of Thrones intervention ends, however I will treat you with a photo of Jon Snow for inspiration].
Telling the truth has been on my mind a lot lately. When you become more self-aware you start catching yourself more often when you’re not saying or doing the right thing, and I began to notice the little white lies we all pepper our daily existence with. Such as: cancelling an appointment because you can’t be bothered to attend but making a very decent excuse about it, texting work you are running late because of delayed trains when really you just overslept or played with the cat too long before leaving the house, or pretending those credit cards don’t exist. It’s harmless stuff really. But is it really harmless? Does it not affect us in ways we don’t even acknowledge? Does not harmlessly lying to others facilitates harmlessly lying to ourselves? Does not acting in ways that contradict our aspirations keep us stuck in situations without reaching the breakthroughs we are in desperate need of?
If lying is so bad, then why do we do it? Here’s a comprehensive list of exactly two reasons:
- We don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings
- We want to be loved
Do we therefore lie because we love others and because we want to be loved? It sounds rather reductionist, but I believe this is the original source of our habit of not always telling the truth. And yes, sometimes (most of the times in fact) the truth hurts. It hurts other people or it can hurt you if by telling the truth you are deemed as irresponsible or untrustworthy or unloveable or not good enough. But maybe if telling the truth hurts once or twice, next time we’ll make more effort to meet our commitments, or to say no from the beginning, or wake up earlier, or cut up our credit cards, whatever the uncomfortable and stark truth telling situation entails. Or perhaps finding something to say that really is the truth and not our interpretation of it. Like that court scene in Liar Liar (with Jim Carrey) in which he cannot lie about his client not having committed adultery, but he can tell the truth about her getting married underage and therefore deeming the prenup agreement void. Because when we tell the truth, there is always a way to tell it without:
- Hurting other people’s feelings, by using compassion and empathy in the way we express it
- Being rejected for showing up exactly how we are because, guess what, most people respect and admire someone who has the guts to tell it for what it is
Watch yourself today. Will you tell a white lie? And if so, will you stop yourself before you do it?