People are great—and they lie.
We lie to keep the peace. We lie to avoid blame. But mostly we lie to survive. Personally. Privately. We lie in order to maintain a story that keeps our sense of self in place. Of course we don’t call it lying–that would be rude. We call it kindness or executive decisions, or “it’s no big deal” or “I am doing them a favor.” We lie by withholding information and we lie by telling only the parts we think the other person wants to hear, or worse, we think they can handle. But the truth is: we don’t tell the truth because we don’t think we can handle the outcome.
In my mind, I imagine me as a damaged little black girl from the streets who can never get a break. I tell myself that I am a failure and a fraud, particularly when things don’t go my way. I tell myself that momma “told” me not to call her after she cancelled Thanksgiving Dinner 3 years ago when I flew to Baltimore to share the holiday with my birth family and my adopted family. Then she sent me a letter saying stay out of her life and to NEVER contact her again. So I haven’t. Not directly. I went to Aunt Barbara’s funeral and was gracious and polite. I called on my birthday this past year to say thank you for giving me life and left a message. I was acting like I was over it. I’m lying. I am acting like I have forgiven but the truth is: I am sick of putting myself in harm’s way—again—to have a relationship with a person who has no regard for the hurt her actions have on me. Darn tutin! Class-A victim rant, right?
Here is the rub: we, you and I, lie about the things that hurt us—not to others but to ourselves. We don’t get the hurts resolved because we minimize the impact of what we make things mean to us on our lives, relationships, and our sense of self. We walk around like we are just “fine” but we are numb. If we are not numb than we are on guard, plotting how to protect our points of view, our jobs, our “upper” hand, our turf (both professional and personal.) We lie to ourselves and then we lie to others.
Each time you say, “I’m fine” when you are not, hoping someone will care enough to digger a little deeper, you sentence yourself to another moment in personal purgatory. You also dig a deeper hole for your sense of self to climb out of because you stop believing you. Not believing in you. No. Not the same. You stop believing you. And the less you believe you the less you will stand for yourself, the less you will expect from yourself, and the more you will tolerate from others who do believe themselves–even if they are wrong. Their conviction is so strong, you get swept up in it or you seek it out because their fervor is more gripping than your milk-toast belief in you. So you lie.
Here is a Street Smarts~ Strategic Visioning tool that will turn this whole scenario on its head:
1. Tell the truth and let the truth go to work: You may have heard the phase, “The truth will set you free,” but first it will insult you. To your face. Take out a piece of paper and make 4 columns. Label the 1st column, The Sentence, the 2nd column The Profit, the 3rd column The Loss, and the the 4th column The Give-Up and do the following:
—A. In the 1st column write “The Sentence.” Think of a judge declaring your jail sentence and banging down the gavel. It is this sort of sentence not simply a string of words you are saying but really like a “death sentence. “Momma hates me” or “My boss is out to get me” or “my children don’t listen” whatever phrase captures the sentiment of your particular situation.
—B. In the 2nd column write what you profit: time, passing the buck, attention, stature? You have to be ruthlessly honest with yourself here. What are you getting out of it? It can be positive or negative but no one keeps something around–including a complaint–without getting something out of it. TELL THE TRUTH!!!
—C. In the 3rd column write down the costs: peace of mind, relationships, effectiveness, productivity? Again you have to be willing to let your heart experience what it is like for you when you empower this series of thoughts, words, and language to run you. Open your heart. Let you feel you and comfort you. You are restoring you with you. You deserve this. Don’t back down from the fear of feeling. The feelings pass. On the other side is freedom, power, and self-respect. TELL THE BLOODY TRUTH!!!
—D. In the 4th column write down what you would have to give up to take a new action, an action that is a match for what you want but have been unwilling to take. Now this strategy is gold. What would you have to let go of to do something new? Victim-hood? Control? Domination? Righteousness? Hiding out? What? Write it down.
—F. Schedule a time to take the action and take the action. And tell somebody. Here is where the rubber meets the road. If you want a new business, a new relationship with your employees, or rekindled love with your wife of 12 years, you MUST take a new action that is a match for what you say you want. Not for what you think you can have. Now that’s power!
I talked with my uncle last week and he told me momma was in a wheel chair and is scheduled to have an operation on her back that may leave her paralyzed. A new action for me would be to call her. I would have to give-up my rightness/pettiness about how she told me to never call her again. I would have to acknowledge how deeply hurt and disappointed I was that she would cancel Thanksgiving and my attempts to restore our family; I would have to let go of being a victim and own that her actions and my expectations are not the same thing; and I would have to change my sentence from, “Momma doesn’t love me or want me in her life” to “Momma is scared and alone and maybe I could help.”
This is the power of strategic visioning—to create, on a dime, new openings for action where once stood a brick wall of evidence about what could not be done. Look in your own life—at work, in your relationships, and with yourself— and see where you have been lying to yourself and others. Then ask yourself this question: what would be possible if I gave up lying to live a life that defied the impossible?
With all the love my heart can hold…