If you’ve spent much time around Los Angeles, you’d know that one of the hot New-Agey crazes is something called the Master Cleanse. It’s basically an insane masochistic ritual where the cleanser subsists solely on a disgusting concoction of water, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and maple syrup. After ten days or more of the torturous starvation diet, you come out cleansed, detoxed, spiritually enlightened, and of course, skinnier. Then if you just simply wait ten more days all those nice benefits will have vanished. There’s no actual scientific evidence that it “cleanses” anything or removes any toxins. Good program, right?
I have a new proposal…a new “master cleanse”. It’s guaranteed to change you entirely as a person. It’s guaranteed to strengthen your relationships and make you feel better about yourself. It will lead to less guilt feelings and less stress.
And you can have it for the low, low cost of the time it took you to read this. Are you ready? Here it is.
I know what you’re thinking. “I’m an honest person.” See? You just did it. You lied to yourself.
The fact is that we all lie. It doesn’t make us bad people necessarily, at least not all of us, but it does mean we could be better.
To be clear, I do it too. Sometimes a little bit. Sometimes a lot. Usually about stuff that’s not important at all. Like today, for example. I told someone that I would love to have lunch with him soon when I really don’t want to have lunch with him at all. And you know what? I just made that example up, which means I just lied to you! I swear, that will be the last time (in this article).
The first step to successfully telling the truth all the time is to spend a few days trying to recognize every time you tell a lie, bend the truth, omit information, or fail to correct misinformation because you prefer the other person to have the wrong idea about something.
I don’t know what your results will be but I did this a few months ago and have continued since and I found myself doing the sort of things I just described a lot. I started thinking about it more and more. Who am I really benefitting by letting people be misled?
Am I lacking the confidence or the courage to accept the consequences of telling the truth? If so, what does that say about me, not to mention my ability to advance and mature as a person?
Am I lying for the sake of the person I’m lying to? On its face, we should all realize how ridiculous this is, but this is exactly what we tell ourselves when we drop little white lies left and right…even though we really are good people.
I don’t think it’s presumptuous to speak for all of us and say that there’s almost no occasion where we prefer to be lied to. There are plenty of situations where we’d rather not deal with a harsh truth, but believing in a false “truth” instead only leaves us unable to properly react and respond to our world. It also causes us to distrust people once we learn the truth, even our closest friends.
And how arrogant is it to believe we have the authority to decide what’s best for another person to know or not know? As smart as we may be, and as well as we may know the other person, we cannot possibly predict with certainty how that person will react. There’s a good chance that they’ll respond better to the truth you’ve been avoiding telling them!
So if we can agree on the idea that it’s better to tell the truth (and we’re able to spot our lies) the second step is to start doing it. This requires that we have the courage and confidence to state what the truth is, and the trust in the other person to accept it, appreciate our honesty, and know that we don’t intend to hurt them.
That’s one of the keys here: telling the truth all the time doesn’t mean we have to offer information without cause. If someone asks your opinion, give it honestly, but you’re not required to spout off everything that pops into your head just because it’s there. If you spot a pimple on someone’s face, you don’t need to let him or her know that you think it’s ugly.
We’re also not required to answer every question someone might pose. Some things simply aren’t other people’s business. It’s perfectly reasonable to say, “I don’t want to answer that question,” and it’s better than giving a false answer.
A good side effect of forcing yourself to be honest is that it leads you to doing things that you feel comfortable being honest about. It’s a sort of self-correction, morally.
How good can we become once we’re honest, most importantly, with ourselves? A lot of New Age popular thought actually encourages us to lie to ourselves, reaffirming that everything bad that happens is good, and that nothing bad will happen if we just believe strongly enough. Self-honesty and realism can get us quite a bit further, giving us the strength, confidence, and proper tools to assess and adjust to our world as it is.
So let’s all pledge to do this…even for just a month. Give it a try. Share it. Spread it around. You can tell people that you’ve taken the pledge if it makes you feel better when you have to tell them difficult truths.
Imagine how much stronger our bonds with other people can be. Imagine how much better we can feel about ourselves. Imagine how much better our politics would be!
There’s a higher plane we can reach and I think this can be the first step. So let’s try it.
It’s at least worth a shot.