What I Learned When I Stopped Lying to People
by Andrea Watson | January 29, 2021
I was sixteen years old when I stopped lying to my father. I decided one day that we were not close enough for me to care too much about what he thought or what he might do to me. My honesty initiated a cascade of events that led to some pretty tough situations for me, but I have never regretted my decision to tell the truth. There is freedom in honesty. It is a freedom of spirit and freedom of conscience; sweet and complete. I do not remember the circumstances that led me to make my decision but I do recall the circumstances that surrounded my taking the first step. Here is the story and what I learned from it.
When I was young, I was deviant. I grew up in a strict Mormon household and that made me even more rebellious, because I didn’t believe and I hated being forced to go to church. I smoked cigarettes, I drank, I did drugs, I had sex, I broke the law. I did everything I could think of that I should not have been doing. (Luckily, my behavior over the years has improved drastically). I tried my best to hide it all from my father and step-mother. I was a very angry young woman because my mother had died and my father had replaced her quickly with a woman I hated.
My dad knew that some things were going on that he didn’t approve of. He knew I was skipping early morning seminary (an extra class that starts before school to indoctrinate young Mormons further), he knew I was skipping school. He knew I was not faithful as he wanted me to be. But he knew hardly anything of what was actually going on.
One day, I decided that I was sick and frickin’ tired of trying to make up excuses, come up with stories, and cover my butt. So I took my pack of cigarettes and sat in the driveway smoking to wait for him to come home from work. When his car pulled up to the house, I put out my cigarette and stood up, demanding his attention, which I hardly ever got. He got out of the car and looked at me in an odd way.
“Dad”, I said, “I smoke cigarettes and I have ever since I was 14.” I’m sure he was expecting to come home, chat with his wife, and have a nice dinner, but instead he got a belligerent teenager confronting him with an ugly truth that he now had to deal with in an appropriate parental manner. I don’t remember the conversation we had after my initial statement, but I do remember him teaching me some tricks that he used when he quit smoking.
I soon dropped all my walls when it came to my father and my honesty. throughout my life I have told him every shameful thing I have done at one point or another. Things I am not proud of, but things I have needed help for. And yes, our relationship did eventually get a lot better. He learned to trust me and I learned to trust him. This was one benefit I saw after I stopped lying.
I decided to extend my no-lying policy to other people who came into my life, and even those who just passed through it. I cannot say I am innocent as far as white lies go-nobody is, and sometimes a little fib saves relationships. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about big, dirty, outright lies. I have never lied to a cop, even when I knew I would get in trouble. I have been to jail because of this, and been sentenced to probation even. But I tell you what; because of that, I got the help that I badly needed.
I do not lie to my children, even when they ask me the tough questions. I believe a parent should never lie to a child and that honesty is the best way to earn trust and model good citizenship. I do not want them to lie to me, so I do not lie to them. In order to teach a child the way you want them to live and function as adults, we must model our behavior so that we can show them. It does no good to say one thing and do another.
So overall, what are the lessons I learned after I stopped lying to people? I learned that first and foremost, I was free. Even when I was incarcerated, I was free in my spirit and in my conscience. I had none of the guilt or dread or stress associated with maintaining a lie. It was wonderful. I sat back and did my time in peace. Second, I learned that if I tell the truth I often get the help I need to overcome my problems or navigate difficult situations. Sometimes I even get help that I didn’t know I needed or wasn’t even looking for.
Third, I learned that I could earn people’s trust if I stuck to the truth. If a person sees I am trustworthy and I remain so, they are more likely to interact with me in a positive way and our relationship deepens rather than diminishes. This is important to me, since I do not care to maintain too many different relationships. The ones I do keep are special and I am careful to nurture them in the right ways.
Fourth, I learned that honesty goes hand in hand with a straightforward approach to life, and that is the approach I take. I save myself time and grief by addressing problems, issues, or bumps in the road when they first arise with honesty and openness. This allows me to steer clear of festering resentments, confounding thoughts, and confusion over things that could be easily cleared up. I much prefer this to the alternative.
Last, I found that respect follows honesty in a lot of cases. I am happy to have the respect of others, even if they do not like me much. And I respect those who tell the truth while I find I cannot respect a chronic liar at all. Most people lie sometimes; not a lot, but enough to cause them some discomfort in some way. Everybody tells little white lies. Most people are not pathological liars. This is a great thing. And I do know that sometimes lying is essential for “survival”. However, I have found that for me, telling the truth feels much better. And I like being comfortable A lot. Honesty is not a moral thing for me, although perhaps it should be. Rather, it is a way for me to easily increase my level of comfort in my own body and mind. It works, and to me, that’s all that matters. Until next time,