We have one rule in our house, other than the usual health and safety rules that can be found in most homes. Our one rule is this, we don’t lie.
Three simple words that sum up the hardest act in the world.
We don’t lie. We tell the truth. Always.
I made up the rule and, I have to admit, even I’m tempted to fudge it a little here and there. Lie about whether there’s chocolate left in the pantry. Lie about forgetting to get something critical at the store. Popsicles. Popsicles are apparently critical, and yet I can never seem to remember to put them in the cart. Lie about forgetting to schedule playdates rather than choosing not to because, dear god, not that child again.
Or even lie about how I’m feeling.
Yes, Mommy’s fine. No, Mommy’s not crying.
But I don’t lie. So I tell the truth. I admit to my children that I make mistakes, that I’m making choices they might not like, that sometimes I want to hoard things and not share even though I’m always on them to share their things. That I have real feelings like anger, fear, sadness, and that I see no reason to shield them from that fact.
I figure that my four seconds of discomfort are well worth the fact that they’ll grow up knowing that I might not be perfect in any way, but that they can always trust what comes out of my mouth to be honest and that I’ll do my best to be real with them. In a world packed with uncertainties, I believe that this one certainty is a gift.
I’m a stickler about the no lying rule in my house, but I have to admit that I haven’t always stuck to it out in the real world.
It’s just easier, often, to stick to the approved script. “I’m fine, you’re fine, we’re all fine, isn’t parenting the most fulfilling thing in the whole world? Isn’t being a wife and a mother simply the best every day?”
It’s easier to hide behind the thought that, by saying a little white lie, we’re sparing the other person’s feelings, we’re doing them a kindness.
It’s easier to say the thing that will save you from having to get into a bigger conversation than you can handle right then and there.
But what happens each time you hide behind a lie is that you’re cheating yourself and the other person of a real connection, something we all need desperately to get through this thing we call life.
I’ve been reading Glennon Doyle Melton’s books and listening to podcasts where she’s interviewed, and she keeps talking about life as if we’re all in a big body of water. We’re either treading water, drowning, or when things are going well, floating along on the surface. She explains that, to her, life is all about treading water and fighting the things that routinely pull you under.
Her analogy made me think of logs bouncing along on the water. If we’re each a log, subject to the whims of the currents and the storms, then the only thing that makes us more likely to survive is to lash ourselves to other logs so that we become rafts. The things that literally tie us together is connection, truth, little shared moments of honesty. The more we are real with each other, the stronger our raft, the more likely we all survive the journey.
So, much like my children know that when they ask me something, anything, I’ll speak the truth, a truth that they can hear, that’s age appropriate and relevant to their needs and wants, my friends should also know that I always strive to speak the truth.
I won’t make up a lie about why I can’t come have coffee with that other friend of yours, the one who gets under my skin.
If you ask me how I’m doing, I’m going to try my hardest to be honest with you. As honest as I am with myself at least. And if I can’t go into it right then and there, then I’ll say that.
If you ask me for advice or feedback, sorry sister, but you’re going to get it. And you might not love what you hear, but it’ll be true, and helpful, and I’ll be there to hold your hand as I say it.
And if you need to be truthful and honest with me, I’ll sit, as quietly as I can, and I’ll listen with my whole heart, because, as I’ve discovered over the years, telling the truth is only half the battle. Listening without judgement or assumptions is the other half.
This path of truthful speaking and listening isn’t an easy one. There are people along the way who like living the script, find great safety in the pretense. Those people might take offense, might even choose to not be my friend any more. And that’s fine. I’ve had to make my peace with that because, in the long run, I’ve found that the ones who see me, really see me and my truths as something of value, those are the ones I want as part of my raft for the duration.