I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.
My daughters are nine years apart.
When the younger one was six, she got in trouble for writing on walls and other non-paper surfaces.
Since she was always being blamed when her artwork was discovered, she hatched a plan to get her big sister in trouble.
She used a pen to forge her sister’s name on the sofa in the basement.
My wife and I were more amused than upset.
She still got in trouble, but that incident has become a part of our family lore.
Not all our children’s lies are quite as obvious as that, but all are eventually exposed.
We try to teach them that lying only makes a bad situation worse.
If we are fortunate, they learn that lesson by the time they set out on their own.
But sometimes we don’t learn our own lessons.
It’s so tempting to stretch, bend, and twist the truth.
We arrive late for an appointment and blame the traffic when we wouldn’t have been on time even if we had our own private expressway with no speed limit.
We make promises so we can close a deal. But to keep those promises, the stars would have to align perfectly and everyone would have to agree on the correct way to install toilet paper.
We say that we are almost done with the project, when we haven’t even started and forgot that it is due tomorrow.
Fortunately, we never have asked others to lie for us and say that we are not home or are in a meeting.
When we think about telling the truth as a moral issue, it is easy to see “white lies” as unimportant.
Instead, if we think about being honest as an essential part of any good relationship, we make much better choices.
Why would we risk losing the trust others have placed in us over something that is not that important?
Why would we avoid an uncomfortable situation today for an even more painful conflict in the future and the possible loss of the relationship as a bonus?
How we handle the truth is not just about how others perceive us.
It also affects our relationship with ourselves.
More importantly, our repeated small choices shape the person we are becoming.
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