Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Importance of being Earnest

I don't know if it's "something in the water", but this week I have had the experience of having been lied to by: a friend, a family member, and a student.
The lies were of varying "degrees" ... and in each case I confronted the person in question.

I had a horrible experience 4 years ago where two people told lies about me, which-had they been believed-there would have been serious consequences-(I was lucky: their lies were not believed)-however, the experience left me "sensitive" to lies.

One of my favorite authors is Oscar Wilde, and I love the basis for his book "The Importance of Being Earnest". A book which tells the story of two men who tell lies in order to get their way in life.
Wilde plays with the idea of "earnestness" by giving one of the characters that name as well as implying throughout the story that earnestness is a quality one should seek to acquire, primarily: honesty, sincerity, tenderness, and depth of thought and character.

These are the qualities which Wilde believes are indicative of a deeply trustworthy, truly loving, honorable and absolutely sincere individual.
No wonder the female characters in the novel aspire to marry someone named "Earnest!"

Alas, ours is not a perfect world... and people too often do turn to lying to hide the imperfections, gain approval, and 'get their way'.

Unfortunately, lying is addictive; once you tell a lie, you are you are more likely to tell a lie in the future.
But lying in any kind of relationship is harmful, it can be 'the kiss of death' to a relationship.
Trust is broken...and just as a shattered vase--it takes time to find each piece to glue it back together again.
Sometimes the pieces can be lost, and the vase (trust) can never again be rebuilt.
Any one lie, no matter how "insignificant" or harmless it may appear, does nothing but widen the chasm ....

It is too easy to think that a little "harmless" lie, what is often called a "white lie" or "act of omission" will do no harm to a relationship. But this is not true..any lie, in any form, causes loss of trust.

When you lie once to avoid conflict, responsibility, guilt or whatever.... the next time around when you are again faced with a similar situation, lying will be your first response.
Gradually, as honesty becomes an afterthought, you will be tempted to lie about 'bigger' issues... and on and on it goes.

So what can you do if you have become trapped in your own tangled web?

When you are tempted to lie, consider the consequences.
What will you gain from telling the lie...
what will you lose?
Most often, the thing you are most afraid to bargain with is your pride... but truthfully, the worst price for your pride is that of being a liar.

Listen to your heart!
When you are at the edge of telling a lie, your heart will start to pump faster, you may even feel a bit of guilt or nervousness. When these signs start to occur take a deep breath, pause, and simply stop yourself from lying.

At first, when you push the urge away, it may be difficult- it takes discipline, and it will take a few times, but soon enough you will have a new habit: truth telling.

Just tell the truth.
No matter how much it hurts, no matter how stupid you may look... it is amazing how free you will be when you are earnest in thought and deed, and don't carry around the weight of deception.

If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything!
Mark Twain

"I am different from Washington; I have a higher, grander standard of principle. Washington could not lie.
I can lie, but I won't".
~Mark Twain


Penguin Palooza said...

Wow...great post! I think the world needs to hear more of this. Thank you for posting! By the way, I LOVE The Importance of Being Earnest.

MissButler said...

Long ago I adopted Mark Twain's quote "If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything!" as one of my rules to live by. The truth simplifies things, even if uncomfortable at the moment.