Today, I almost broke my husband’s computer. It happened this afternoon and would have been terrible. I tripped on the chord and the mini laptop plummeted to the floor. I tested it, and it appears to be fine at least temporarily.
However, partway through our evening, I remembered and made sure that I notified him.
One of the most troubling things I’ve found in harmonizing with other human beings is when a situation arises where honesty is demanded, and people take the easy way out by lying.
I’ll admit: I am not above telling a lie or two. Everyone has. I’m not claiming to have undergone some change where I only speak with radical honesty. However, it is an under-appreciated moral that I find urges me to constantly try to be a better person.
“I almost broke your computer today,” I told him. “But I didn’t. The chord is now bent, but it still plugs in and charges. I just wanted to make you aware. I didn’t mean to do it.”
When I was in college, I took a class where I watched a video presentation by Carol Tavris about anger and how anger is often primarily a case of miscommunication and misunderstanding. I’m often amazed at how valuable certain experiences and educational resources are. Experience is what we collect in our life. We can collect things, people, and career milestones, but when it is all said and done, experience is what we have to show. It can be pleasurable like a vacation or a document we read that influenced us. Either way, the takeaway can be immeasurable and touch our whole lives.
Her video also prompted me to read a book she wrote called, Mistakes Were Made (but not by me). I read it a few years before I went into the working world, but it was something I took with me and tried the best to put into action.
Tavris writes this in an interview:
“Consider two students who have the same attitude about cheating. They don’t think it’s a terrible thing, but they know it’s not a good or honorable thing either. Suppose that they now have to take a test—say, one that’s going to determine whether they get into graduate school. They freeze on a crucial essay question, and suddenly the student in front of them, the one who has the most beautiful and legible handwriting on the planet, makes some answers visible.
Each of them makes an impulsive decision: One cheats to get a good grade; the other resists cheating to preserve his or her integrity. Now they will justify the choice they made. The student who cheated will minimize the seriousness of cheating and thereby become more vulnerable to cheating again. The one who resisted cheating will become even more adamant that cheating is unethical and wrong. Over time, through the process of self-justification, these two students will move further and further away from each other in their beliefs about cheating. It is as if they had started out at the top of a pyramid, close in their beliefs, but, having taking a step down in different directions, by the time they reach the bottom they are far apart. Moreover, they will come to believe that they always felt that way about cheating. Elliot developed the metaphor of the pyramid from an early experiment that Judson Mills did with children, which got precisely these results. The kids who cheated justified their behavior, and so did the ones who resisted.”
Many valuable lessons I learned from it are still at the forefront of my mind when I am in situations where I need to own up to something. It’s hard to be honest when honesty is demanded, especially when the larger situation needs deconstructing.
Certainly the fact that I didn’t break Parker’s laptop made the story easier to relay. However, grappling with the decision to tell the truth does something else. It asks us why we are lying. What are we afraid of? If we lie, is there a worse consequence? Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you never have to remember anything.” Sage advice.
One of the things you need to do if you’re attempting to tell the truth is make the other person understand your side of the story. Smaller stuff is easier. That’s where it starts. Uncomfortable with the thought of ‘fessing? You’ll feel better after you do.
When I lived in a house with lots of people, someone was filming a funny short video in our shared bathroom. I had a plant with a glass bulb watering system in it. Because I suck at watering plants.
When I came home on Sunday, the bulb had broken. My plant had spilled all over the bath room. I calmly asked my roommates who all said they knew nothing about it. But then I saw the video online of my roommate. In the bath tub. Next to my plant.
It’s possible that he was telling the truth. It could’ve been set somewhere unsteady and spilled long after he’d vacated the bath room. But he could’ve explained the fact that he was in the bath room in the first place. That he WAS near the plant. Instead, he insulted my intelligence by denying knowing anything about it, and then posting the video later.
I may be naive, but I am not a fucking idiot.
Things like this have happened before and constantly. People will tell me something, and then I’ll find evidence to the contrary. Then they will deny the evidence.
Now they have broken my trust. Their betrayal will remain in my memory FOREVER. If my roommate had confessed, I would’ve forgiven him. Accidents happen. People make mistakes. But admitting you made a mistake is one of the best things you can do. If you do something wrong, you’ll want to cover it up, but that will only make you and whoever discovers the truth feel worse. I am still friends with him, but every time someone lies to you, they become a little further away emotionally. I’ve dated two people who have done this excessively: a pathological liar, and someone who only lied about some of the most important and sensitive material when it mattered most.
“There is only one sin. and that is theft… when you tell a lie, you steal someones right to the truth.”
― Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
I guarantee you that something you have lied about, someone else has discovered. It may be years and years, and they never confronted you about it. I know I’ve done it to someone else, and I assure you that you have too.
There’s a friend I once worked with at a job I hated. She was very good at her job. I was not. She gave me nothing but understanding and kindness as she tried to train me. In short, she gave me everything. Every time I made a mistake and she found it, I would confess. One time I said, “I can’t help it. I keep screwing up. I’m trying so, so hard, and I can’t get it right.” We were cleaning a room together. She said, “It’s okay. You’re learning. You’ll get it right eventually.”
Later, when I left that job, she told me about our third co-worker in the same position. This girl had lied constantly even when we both knew the truth, and she refused to give it to us. There were dozens of little lies here and there. My friend said, “She makes mistakes, but she never admits to them. I always appreciated how when you made a mistake, you would own up to it. She still doesn’t think she does anything wrong.”
It can also be best summed up as, “Someday, you’re going to be telling the truth, and no one will believe you.”
Decide what person you want to be, but when you pick a person, do not try to be a big person by saving face. Instead, make amends and admit fault, and in the end learn from your mistakes. That will make you the biggest person.