Why I never lie

A child with painted hands

Until I was about 23 years old, I’m pretty sure I was a compulsive liar.

I lied about: my sex life, my skills, and stories which may or may not have happened to me. The goal was to create a Dillan who was way cooler, more impressive, and more capable than the Dillan I was.

The effect?

Not only was I keeping reality away from my friends and family. I was also muddying my own lens of the world around me. I began believing the lies I was telling.

I also trusted people less. If I wasn’t being honest, how easy was it for others to be dishonest too?

Studies show that people who are carrying a gun suspect way more people to also be carrying a gun. So too with lying.

One of the heaviest burdens a liar carries is having to remember all that they said.

In my junior year of college, I got caught in a lie. I told one person something that contradicted what I told another person. The memory still makes me cringe. I felt like a child who got caught lying about stealing a cookie.

After that moment of disgust, I set out to intentionally break my habit of lying. It was fucking hard and took me about three years.

Even to an honest person, setting out to not tell a single lie is quite the challenge. It’s almost ingrained in our culture to spare the feelings of others and tell white lies to be polite.

I just finished a book—Lying by Sam Harris—which debunks every reasonable-sounding argument for telling a lie.

My two biggest takeaways are:

1) Lying erodes trust in the people we care about (both consciously and unconsciously).

I have a friend who’s one of the kindest and most compassionate people I’ve ever known. But one time, we were hanging out and someone texted her seeing what she was up to.

Not wanting this person to know she was choosing other friends over her, my friend lied. She said she was just chilling for the night to get ready for an early morning.

We laughed it off, but I remember thinking, Has she ever done this to me?

Now I’ve seen that she’s willing to lie to a friend. Whether we like it or not, I’ll never trust her 100% when I invite her to something and she says she can’t go.

2) Fake praise or encouragement is not kind; it’s disrespectful. It wastes a person’s time and morphs their grip on reality.

False encouragement is a kind of theft: It steals time, energy, and motivation that a person could put toward some other purpose.

Sam Harris, Lying

This has to do with short-term vs. long-term thinking.

If we give open and honest feedback (with grace and permission, of course), in the short term we may risk hurting a person’s feelings.

But in the long term, we accomplish a number of things. We…

• become a trusted confidante
• genuinely help this person improve
• cultivate a deeper relationship with this person

Giving and handling feedback well is its own separate conversation. But when I create something, I don’t want people to tell me why it’s awesome. That may feel good for four seconds, but what I really want is to build something valuable.

As uncomfortable as it can be, I can only accomplish that by having people I trust point out my blind spots and mistakes.

An essay is always improved after a round of edits.

On the other hand, if I’ve only been told that my thing is perfect…when I share it with the world and no one likes it, I’m left confused and heartbroken.

We can avoid that by simply being honest.

Conclusion

Where do you tell lies—even white lies?

How difficult would it be to not tell a single lie for the next seven days? I encourage you to try it. It’s more liberating than you may think.