Truth be told
For the first time, I’m hand stringing my own mala beads. I’m tying 108 knots, between 108 beads. And each time I tighten the string, I restate my intention.
My intention is truth.
Sam Harris, the atheist, neuroscientist, and public intellectual, talks a whole lot about truth in his meditation app, Waking Up, and his podcast, Making Sense. Both are at the top of my daily listening queue. Also, Harris is the author of Lying, among other books.
In a recent conversation with Peter Attia, Harris talked about his commitment to honesty, which began during his freshman year in college. “The course was basically a machine for proving that no scenario justified lying. Most people left … more or less certain that lying was always the wrong choice.”
To this day, Harris said, by living an honest life he is “closing the door to all kinds of complexity and risk, both interpersonally and reputationally.”
Coming from a guy who gets paid to proclaim provocative “truths,” that sounds good. But what about the rest of us?
Can we be truthful? Always?
No more falsehoods to please the boss. No more wardrobe white lies. And no more exaggerated obstacles that prevent us from experiencing joy. Or from doing the personal work we need the most.
That sounds hard! Especially when liars are everywhere. And consequences are nil.
According to Washington Post fact checkers, Donald Trump said 1,104 things that were totally or partially untrue in October 2018 alone. Since he took office, the total count is more than 6,000.
But here’s a thought. What if by telling the truth we can distance ourselves from the bad guys? And maybe, as Harris says, we’ll experience real personal gain.
Telling only the truth makes life simple—We don’t have to keep track of what we may have said. Nor do we need a rubric that explains when a white lie is justified. There’s just one rule. Be truthful.
Praise will mean more—If we’re willing to admit that we don’t like something, then people will know we mean it when we offer a compliment.
Our relationships will grow deeper—People around us will know what to expect. They will want to hear the truth. And the trust gain will quickly outweigh any momentary awkwardness.
I read somewhere that Americans lie 11 times a week on average. Is that true? Hell. I don’t know what to believe anymore.
But I do know this: Even after tying 108 knots and tugging on a string 108 times, being truthful at all times isn’t easy.
I’d be lying if I said it was.