Lying is Like Drug Addiction

This subject has always fascinated me, and it happens in everyday life. People get mad if you tell them the truth about how they look, or how they did. It seems in many cases that they don’t want the truth; that they’d rather feel good. But it’s a faulty premise:  If I tell you that you did well, then it means you did well. But talk is cheap, and facts override talk every time. Many people just want happy talk, and once they get it, they’re satisfied. That rarely turns out well.

Let’s consider what the lie accomplishes. From a subjective point of view, just because something feels good does not make it right or self-interested. You’ve heard the expression “follow the money.” Interestingly, one reason people lie or want to be lied to is when they believe it will pay them something. But there are other forms of payment: One is flattery. Another is approval from peers, family or community. Another is an irrational expectation that one should be perfect at all times. Approval reassures the nervous person that all is well. Politicians are a great illustration of why people want to be lied to. It’s probably the one point on which we can all agree. They promise us the moon, and we fall for it again and again.

On a similar track, a lot of people go to therapists asking, “Can you motivate me to do such-and-such”? My response is usually, “How badly do you want such-and-such?” For example, let’s say somebody drops out of school. “I know I could do it, but I just didn’t have the motivation. How can I get motivation?” People talk about motivation as if it’s something you can acquire without effort. But motivation isn’t magic; it’s simply wanting something badly enough to work for it.

When someone tells me they weren’t motivated I usually correct them by saying, “So you didn’t really want it all that much, did you?” This can make some people mad. They don’t like the implication that it’s their own choices that led to their disappointments. They’d rather think it was something or someone else. “Motivation” seems like a reasonable enough excuse, but it’s a rare person who appreciates the candor when I tell them they didn’t want something badly enough.

In politics, people want to believe they can have something for nothing. Many have a chip on their shoulder and feel entitled to a break, even if means harming others and ultimately themselves. That’s OK. They’d rather hold on to the fantasy. Sadly, that fantasy often starts in childhood. I cringe whenever I hear a daddy or mommy say to their child, “There, there. Everything will work out. I promise.” Even most kids probably sense the lie. And if they don’t, they’ll learn soon enough. Adults should not be promising kids something they’re unable or unwilling to deliver. It’s better to say the truth, even if the truth consists of, “I’m worried too. But I’m also confident it might turn out OK.” Kids are listening really hard, and we have to make sure we really mean what we say!

Sadly, lies are like drugs. Not everyone succumbs, but some do. Life is admittedly hard, and for some, life can be very hard, even through no fault of their own. But that still doesn’t make the case for lying. We are all vulnerable and, let’s face it, none of us are getting out of this alive. To me, that’s all the more reason to be honest with others and, most of all, with yourself. It’s only with 20/20 “mental vision” that you can use in order to enjoy the serenity, happiness and potential that life has to offer.



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