It’s an old saying, going back to the bible, the kind of thing we would have been told as children. It’s easy to imagine an earnest minister preaching from the pulpit, finger wagging as he made his pronouncements. “Do not lie!”
What adults often forget is that lying is a normal part of our development and part of our survival strategy. I have a particularly vivid memory of a mother, from my days as a teacher, staring into my eyes and defiantly stating, “my son does not lie!” A day later, she returned to apologise. Several children had contradicted her son’s story and she realised that he had indeed been lying. She was a stern woman and I have no doubt that her son had often chosen to hide the truth from her. I sat her down and explained that lying, did not make her son a bad child. It meant he was afraid of upsetting her. A long discussion followed.
If lying is “normal”, why should we avoid doing it? As we grow up, we learn that lying is not always the best strategy to avoid trouble. Most people lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, to be diplomatic. Occasionally, lying about a reason for being late or needing a day off work may also be used to save face. We choose not to lie because we learn that doing so on a regular basis, means we would eventually get found out and, crucially it would make us untrustworthy.
There is one other deeper and more fundamental reason for being truthful. Being honest takes courage. Even those of us who rarely lie to others, may find it difficult to always be honest with ourselves. We lie to ourselves to hide from pain. We don’t want to admit that a friend’s comment has really hurt us because that might compromise the friendship. We avoid admitting that we’re unhappy in a marriage because the implications are terrifying. The list is endless.
When we fail to be honest with ourselves, we are failing to be the hero looking the monster in the eye. We need to dig deep and face him. If we don’t, we end up compromising ourselves and living a life that suppresses us. We become resentful, bitter and unhappy. We send out mixed signals, confusing others.
In Greek Mythology, Medusa was a gorgon. She had a head full of snakes and her stare could turn you to stone. She had a liaison with Poseidon, god of the sea. Poseidon/ Neptune in Roman mythology, is associated with fog, deception and disillusion. When the hero, Perseus chops off Medusa’s head, a beautiful Pegasus flew out of her neck. Perseus faced his monster and destroyed her. The Pegasus that flew up, reminds us that the truth, does indeed set us free.