People lie to one another all the time in relationships. One partner has an affair and swears up and down that nothing is going on. Another person promises that s/he quit smoking weeks ago, then their partner finds they have been sneaking cigarettes daily. Johnny tells Susan he doesn’t smoke pot anymore; when Susan leaves the house he gets high with a friend. Steve swears to Jodi that he hasn’t looked at porn in months; the next day she catches him on a porn site.
There are many different ways to lie: blatant lies, subtle lies of omission, (don’t ask, don’t tell, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”), “tricky truths,” half truths, mis-representations, and on and on. Our culture feeds on lies. Our highest officials blatantly lie to us all the time: (“Read my lips—I will not raise taxes,” “I did not have sex with that woman,” “There are weapons of mass destruction…”). The lies are endless and happen all the time to all kinds of people.
Each example, I have no doubt, would have a different explanation for the lie. One lie is to protect a spouse from pain, another is to protect a country from terrorism, another is to protect a person from losing his job and his family from losing his income, and another is to protect someone perhaps from a hate crime. All are lies, no matter how we explain them.
So why do we tell them?
The lies are unending in part because as long as nobody ever finds out about it, there’s no problem. You see, the seductive thing about lies is they can keep people out of trouble. Lies can hold off a fight, reduce the level of anger and disappointment between partners, protect someone’s feelings, stave off intense pain, stop a conflict, save a job, and can even, on occasion, save marriages--if they’re never found out.Here’s a sobering reality, though--as much as lies, when not discovered, give people room to avoid difficult conversations, hard realities, and possibly painful consequences, they also destroy trust, relationships, hope, families, and lives--when they are discovered.
When people find out about affairs, the most difficult thing I see the person struggling with isn’t the sex itself, as much as the constant lies told around the affair. “I swear we’re just friends. You’re getting crazy on me…” By the time the partner finds out about the affair, there have been so many lies told around it that the person simply can’t trust what their partner says anymore.
This is true almost across the board with lies. Our country has had soooooo many politicians lie that its citizens barely listen to them anymore. Children no longer wait for Dad to come visit after the tenth time he doesn’t show—they just stop listening (unfortunately that doesn’t protect their broken hearts). Partners eventually stop believing what their spouse says after having been lied to repeatedly—they just can’t stomach another blatant breech of trust.
Lies break trust at its very core. They leave a lingering doubt that sometimes never goes away. Often they leave a deep wound that can never be healed. Before you make the decision to lie and rationalize that decision however you choose, first ask yourself if you’re willing to live with the consequences that lie is likely to cause. Next, ask yourself if you’re willing to have your family live with those same consequences.
Challenge: Commit to live a life of integrity—no matter how difficult it may be. Being honest may be difficult in the short run; however, it is your best chance for happiness in the long run.