Words by Bryonna Manes
We all know lying is frowned upon. Whether you learned it from the Bible or Sesame Street, ‘do not lie’ is a general rule of thumb. White lies, however, seem to be the favorite cousin of lying that everyone let’s slide. This past month I decided to try and eliminate white lies from my life. No more playing nice or sugar coating the truth. I set out to speak my honest opinion and expose the truth every chance I got. In doing so, I noticed a few things about people, relationships, and our society as a whole. People like white lies.
When someone asks if they look fat, they aren’t expecting you to tell the truth. If your friend asks if you think their boyfriend or girlfriend is good for them, they don’t expect you to say “I’m not sure if they’re the one”. Everyone wants to hear that pretty little white lie that tells them what they want to hear. During the last month I realized, I like telling those white lies just as much as people like hearing them. Telling the truth is hard! Not because I’m guilty or breaking the rules. It’s hard because hurting someone’s feelings or failing to please them isn’t fun. Unless you are one devilish son of a bitch who enjoys the pain of others, banishing white lies from your life is quite a feat.
I’ve never run a marathon, but I will attempt to explain my month sans lying to that of running a marathon (except I didn’t train for this for months on end). We’ll begin at the starting line. You have a goal in mind and nothing is going to stop you from reaching it. My goal: to go a month without a single lie, big or small, leaving my lips. At first you’re excited, ready for the challenge. You dive in head first with total commitment. In a marathon, this is the moment where people hit the ground running at a sprint with nothing but their destination in mind. For me, in the realm of lying, I jumped on the truth bandwagon rather bluntly. My first day facing the challenge I went from being sweet and sugary to this sour, bitter, hard candy that hurt your teeth and left you with a stomach ache. Not the ideal starter experience. Not only did I piss some people off, but I was left feeling tired and defensive. I wasn’t sure I’d make it another day, let alone four whole weeks.
The end of my first week could be compared to the 10k mark in a marathon. With three more weeks ahead of me I, like any marathon runner, could choose one of two options. Either see the feat ahead as an opportunity to triumph my goal, or an opportunity to choose failure and give up. I reluctantly continued on my journey. I decided to deliver the truth with a different tone. Instead of ripping off the Band-Aid I’d ease the truth into the person’s mind. This proved to be more successful. If someone asked a question that required an honest answer, I’d simply deliver the harsh truth sandwiched between two compliments or positive remarks. This tactic was similar to when someone delivers bad news. Always sandwich the difficult things in life with two better things. Easing into the truth also proved to be successful whenever someone asked me how I was. Instead of responding with the automatic “I’m good” or “I’m okay, how are you?” that we’ve been programmed to always say in society (because God forbid you’re anything but good or happy). Instead of giving them a generic answer, or doing the complete opposite and bombarding them with my whole life’s story, I decided to ease them into an honest answer. I’d lay it out on the table. Good or bad I’d share that little chunk of my life with whoever was asking. The difference was in my tone, body language, and always following up my answer by asking them how they were. These results were much better than my first day’s attempt at the life of honesty. Giving actual answers sparked conversations with people I had never thought to open up to. Who would’ve know that some people actually meant it when they ask you how you are!
The next week marked my half way point in this marathon of truth. This is said to be a moment of rejoice in a marathon. At the half way point you run past your family and friends cheering you on and supporting you. You get to look at them and think, “They’ve been standing there for as long as I’ve been running” and feel a little bit better about the burning sensation in your shins and your long for a three course meal and a nap. The half way point in my marathon was not nearly as touching or motivating. No one praises you for not lying. People just expect that you don’t. There’s no one there to pat you on the back or make you a sign with “I heart honesty” on it. My half way mark meant I simply made it to the end of two weeks and felt like an asshole. I did not feel proud of my accomplishments. I was not a better person because for telling the truth. I just felt like a prick, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get over it and do better for the last two weeks of my experiment.
Third week rolls around and I have gained a new wind of motivation. This week could be compared to mile 18 in a marathon. You have to find something new to distract your mind and motivate your body to continue. I decided that this week, to inspire me to stay true to my challenge, I was going to think about all the past times I had lied. I figured, if I remembered how bad lying felt and how much hurt I had caused others in my past by lying then maybe I would feel better about not telling white lies now. This did not work (surprise, surprise). Remembering all the lies I had told between ages 5 to 20 did nothing but remind me that I used to be a shitty person. If I really tried and though super positive I at least noticed that I have come a long way since then. I used to be a chronic liar when I was very young. I’d be holding a cookie that I was allowed to have and if someone asked me, “oh is that your cookie?” I’d straight up lie and say it was for my brother or something. I would lie even when I didn’t have to! Obviously I grew out of that, but for a few years I was terrified I was never going to be able to stop and that everyone would hate me forever. This was a bit different than that. I knew that no one would hate me eternally for telling the truth. But sometimes the worrier in my head tried to convince me otherwise.
Finally, week four. You’d think this would be a week of ease and relief. Wrong. This week was where I approached what marathon runners call “The wall”. Mile 22, or in my case day two of week four. Some people would see this week as a sprint to the finish line, a time to revel in my experiment and really learn one last lesson from it. I saw it as a time to complain about how dishonest everyone else is. I began to call everyone else around me out on anything I thought could be a little white lie. I started to obsess over how often our society lies and looks the other way. I’d think about it so much I’d work myself into the crabbiest mood and start lashing out on my friends and girlfriend. I’d get defensive, argumentative, and just plain rude. I was trying to do something good by not lying, but instead I was turning into this mega-bitch who feel superior to everyone else. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it to that golden last day.
When the last day of my month arrived I felt a myriad of emotions. Of course I felt relief, this meant no more blunt answers or uncensored comments and opinions. However, I also felt a bit wild. I felt as though I had been chained to a cause and someone finally told me, “good try, go back to what you were doing before”. I realized that I didn’t want to return to my life of white lies and fake, sugary smiles. I had just spent four weeks dreading every moment of this experience only to reach my finish line and feel inspired to continue…what the hell? What was happening to me? Did this mean I had actually changed?
Trying something new on for size may seem like a humorous way to challenge yourself and keep life a bit interesting, but don’t be surprised when it actually changes your life a little. Sure, I’m not going around preaching to my friends about how the truth saved my life. But I am going to try to tell the truth a little bit more with every chance I get. Who knows, maybe it’ll inspire others to tell the truth a bit more too. I just hope when they show me honesty it doesn’t reveal any horrors or hideous truths that I’d rather stay ignorant to.