from an early age we are told, “do not steal,” “be kind,” and “do not lie.” the conviction weighs heavier as elementary aged children any time we found ourselves in a situation that tempted us to go against any of the three. in fact, when it came to honesty, we were so brutally honest that we said whatever came to mind, then were reprimanded later on about why it was mean to tell our teachers that their breath smelled. with age, the initial conviction begins to elude us as we start telling little “white lies” to get a day off from work or to preserve someone’s feelings.
the science behind the truth
may i propose something to you? what if telling the truth had some bio-psychological backing? what if it isn’t just about child rearing and morals? entertain the idea for a moment.
as living, breathing, and moving organisms, we respond to the environment we are placed in depending on how it affects us. if the temperature is cold, our body’s nervous system sends a stimulus to our muscles causing us to shiver and thus create heat. when we are hot, our sweat glands produces liquid which helps us to cool down. when we are in a threatening situation, our bodies don’t try to front and tell us we can handle it, we tell ourselves that. we’re the ones lying. our bodies are honest in its attempt to protect us from the impending danger.
so then, why is it that we neglect what our hearts tell us sometimes and act so foolish? why do we stifle our own truth in critical moments? when i asked one of my 9th graders, his response was simple; “to protect myself.” interesting, huh? we lie to protect ourselves.
about a week ago, it dawned on me; i had been putting my truth in the hands of people for a very long time. i was giving others the leeway to influence what i thought about myself, what i should feel, and how i should behave. it wasn’t that i was incapable of thinking for myself as much as it was i was not confident in my own ability to hear my own body’s response to my environment. if i’m being honest, i was not being honest with myself. that’s the truth. my heart would say, “hey, you should consider making a u-turn right about now.” i'd respond, “nah, i think i have this one under control, i can handle it.” she’d come back and say, “this is the wrong direction,” to which i’d reply, “i know what i’m doing.”
i didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until after i took a step back to pay attention. the more power i gave to the voice in denial, the more in sync that voice became with my own and before i knew it, i was convincing people i knew of the said lie that i was telling myself. all because of what? i didn’t want to accept the truth and honestly, i’m not sure why. i wasn’t trying to “protect myself” as my 9th grader said. at least, i haven’t yet uncovered what i might have been trying to protect myself from. what i do know however, is that once i let go of the pretense i felt so much lighter. i no longer felt in opposition with myself.
deception can become a place of fortitude when we allow it. it’s a place where we deliberately ignore what feels right or even dead wrong and give power to what can get us through a difficult moment or season in our lives. i’ve been there and maybe you have as well. our stories may be different but what i'm sure of is that what is waiting on the other side of the veil is freedom. when we finally rip the masks off, air becomes accessible again and we no longer have to force our bodies to react unnaturally.