Wednesday, 20 July 2016

True or false?

Anxiety comes in different shapes and forms. I have plenty of anxieties but I guess the biggest is whether I'm being true to myself or not. What you might call honesty anxiety.

When I'm talking to other people, I'm forever thinking, am I being honest? Am I telling the truth or am I faking it? Am I simply saying something because it's polite, or it's what they're expecting, or it avoids an argument, or it's an easy-to-understand cliché? Am I dodging any remark that might make the conversation too difficult, too emotional, too startling?

A lot of people seem immune to such agonising.  They gabble away, apparently unconcerned whether they're telling it like it is or making it all up. Maybe they don't even see the difference. Whatever they say is grist to the mill, is oiling the social wheels, and who cares if it's total bollocks or if it's deep-down, straight-from-the-heart, innermost-self sincerity?

I'm amazed at the number of people who spout blatant, outrageous lies and don't seem remotely bothered about what they're saying. It must be some sort of private game to tell the biggest whoppers and get away with it.

But then again, what is truth and what is falsity anyway? If I say something out of politeness, is that false because I'd rather say something a bit rude, or is it genuine because I believe politeness helps you get on with people?

If I fob someone off with a glib cliché, is that false because it misrepresents a more complex reality, or is it genuine because I don't want to embarrass them with some detailed and baffling explanation they really don't need?

Maybe I just have an exaggerated dislike of lies and dishonesty. Where others merely shrug them off, I feel truly sickened and polluted. I feel tricked and insulted. I feel like I've trodden in something nasty.

31 comments:

Dave Martin said...

I make it a policy to always tell the truth, but I'll deliver it with varying degrees of bluntness depending on who I'm talking to.
Otherwise, if I've nothing good to say I'll keep quiet.
I prefer straight-talking people - you might not always like what they say but usually it's what you need to hear.

tammy j said...

your post makes me think of an exquisite little book that I love.
I try to re-read it periodically just to tune up my way of talking and thinking.
it's called 'the four agreements.'
have you ever read it?
one of my favorites of the agreements is
"be impeccable with your words."
I love that simple thought.
sometimes difficult to remember.
but always worth striving for.
it's everything you're talking about.

Nick said...

Dave: I agree about straight-talking people. There's nothing worse than a growing sense that the person you're talking to is fudging and dodging all the way.

Tammy: No, I haven't read that one. "Be impeccable with your words" is a good way of putting it. I like the double meaning of unblemished and exemplary.

Wisewebwoman said...

I'm not clear on what you're trying to say Nick. Are you talking about friends or acquaintances?
If friends I would u friend Stat if acquaintances why bother? I don't sell reflect about what I say much as it's truthful. As to others I antipathy the same unless it's proved otherwise.
XO
WWW

Wisewebwoman said...

Damn u auto correct. I hope u can translate.

John Gray said...

Of course we all play a game nick, the dance of human communication .
Only autistic people and characters with questional self awareness are just totally brutal in their honesty

Joanne Noragon said...

If a good friend fell into double talk or disbelievable comments, I'd need to question. Anyone else, I consider the source.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Honesty is a mixed bag, in my opinion. Sometimes people say things claiming that they are just being honest when in reality they are being cruel or self-indulgent. There are many times when the only kind or decent or sensible or prudent thing to do is keep your mouth shut. There are even times when you have a moral obligation to lie (as in the old examples of sheltering Jews from Nazis or runaway slaves).

In spite of that, I very much value honesty. But really, every time you present yourself in a way that leaves anything out or that is outside your conscious awareness, you could be being less than truthful, so I come back around to questioning what true honesty even is.

None of this refers to blatant lies that only serve to further a political or business agenda or to hurt someone else. Or lying to someone you are about. That's more contemptible.

Bijoux said...

I've always had the opposite issue of being too honest. I remember getting a review once, where the director of the company I worked for said I needed to tone down my honesty. People have told my husband that they enjoy my honesty, to which he informs them that it's great fun unless you have to live with it. LOL.

Nick said...

www: I can just about comprehend! I'm talking about friends, acquaintances, anyone really. Even if it's someone on the bus, I still don't want to lie. I reflect about what I say all the time. I ask myself if I was being as honest as I could be or if I was just saying the convenient thing.

John: I'm not suggesting brutal honesty, just as much honesty as possible. Of course there are situations where honesty would simply be a big mistake.

Nick said...

Joanne: I don't have any close friends except for Jenny, so I can't comment, except to say I would expect a close friend to be honest with me.

Agent: I agree, so-called honesty may just be cruelty or self-indulgence. I'm not advocating total honesty, there's a time and place for it like everything else. And yes, sometimes there's a clear obligation to lie.

Good point about inadvertently omitting things, so quite often you're only telling a partial truth anyway.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Your honesty must have raised a few hackles, if the director had to have a word with you about it. I like your husband's response. I feel like that about Jenny sometimes!

I like the fact that you and my other blogmates make very blunt comments about me sometimes. I appreciate that, even if I feel a bit got-at occasionally!

kylie said...

I have a friend who regularly told me that I'm as blunt as a house brick (She hasn't said it lately, I don't think I have changed)
It hurt me every time she said it because I try hard to be gentle with people. Funnily enough, for all my bluntness I never said anything about it because she would have been mortified if she realised how I felt.

There are some situations where I can't be honest so I am silent instead. It always feels like a lie but until I can get around the difficulties, it's the best I can do.

Jenny Woolf said...

Im currently supporting a crowdfunding campaign that is running to raise money for legal action to punish those who lied in the Brexit referendum. Theyre concentrating on Boris etc but i think they shoukd also look at the other side. So that is whats in my mind when i agree I dishonesty is almost physically sick making. But it sounds to me as if you are exceptionally conscientious and go beyond this with your own principles. Good for you.

CheerfulMonk said...

Somehow the issue doesn't seem to come up much in my life. I don't worry about being dishonest, I do try to watch sharing my enthusiasms because I don't want to bore people. I try to listen a lot more than I talk. That's why I love blogging. I get to talk too. :)

Nick said...

Kylie: I know we've had a few fights in the past because you've been totally honest with your opinions! But we haven't actually fallen out with each other.... I agree about silence often feeling like a lie. I don't have an answer to that either.

Jenny: The blatant dishonesty all round in the referendum campaign was appalling. Of course politicians lie all the time, but that was an absolute orgy of misinformation.

Yes, I am a conscientious person. I don't like casual fibs and inventions.

Nick said...

Jean: I also have to be careful not to bang on about my pet interests. And I'm also more of a listener than a talker. Like you, I love blogging because it encourages me to talk about myself a bit and make some sense of all those jumbled thoughts running through my mind!

kylie said...

I was honest when you asked my opinion!

Nick said...

Kylie: Please be as honest as you like - short of gratuitous insults natch!

Ursula said...

Dear Nick, what I am going to do with you in your "old" age? Such Angst, Nck, such angst. Just relax, rest in yourself. Believe in yourself. You are a good man.

We all have a moral compass, or call it a code of conduct, which we automatically adhere to; bred in the bone as it were. So, I know for a fact that I have nothing to worry about - because, particularly when asked a direct question, I don't lie. On the other hand I do believe in "omission". Some would call that "lying". But is it? Sometimes there can be such a thing as "too much information"; information that serves no other purpose than causing upheaval, totally unnecessarily so. It's what intrigues are built on.

Then there are those tiny little lies that serve to make social intercourse run smoothly. No big deal. It's why I forgive people who tell me that I look "a little tired" (euphemism) when I full well know that, that day, I look crap for whatever reason. And so on.

However, whilst I know that I am not a liar, I am contempteous (though not unforgiving) of those who lie to dupe me. Luckily I do have an uncanny radar for people like that, as I discovered at the tender of age eighteen. No doubt a gift. And I am sorry to say, no I am not sorry, that I have employed some questionable methods trying to get died-in-the-wool liars to tell the truth and admit to the lie. Naturally, once found out, the accomplished liars in my life (there are several) point with their finger at me. "How could you"?, they ask me full of self pity. Yes, really. Never mind. Once a liar always a liar (or, say, arch manipulator) - and almost doesn't matter when you know about someone's tendencies in that department.

So, yes, Nick. You'll forgive me the rather long response but sometimes the only way we can get to know each other, contribute something to someone else's life is by being expansive (or should that read "overbearing"? Insert smiley) rather than just offering a soundbite. Hope I put some perspective on what is, no doubt, a difficult subject.

Hug,
U

Nick said...

Ursula: Goodness, a long response indeed! Yes, there are all sorts of distinctions between honesty, half-truths, lies, white lies, euphemisms etc. I agree that honesty can't be justified if it simply means hurting or insulting someone for the sake of it. You have to be sure the honesty is either harmless or serves a purpose.

Quite so, don't liars hate it when they get found out?

Anonymous said...

Honesty and truth depend also on a cultural environment. Far Eastern philosophy and life style sees honesty in a different way than we do. You can hurt very easily the Japanese sense of being discrete and distant with our open way to make statements. I find it's a complicated question.I would be able to explain it much better in my mother tongue or in French. Anyway I try to be always honest, but sometimes I just keep quiet and do not know how to react. Concerning my person I like it when people speak honestly and the truth. But how to know really one person's thoughts. It's just impossible.
Mia More

Nick said...

Mia: I think that's true about people from some cultures preferring to be discreet and detached and being upset by too much openness. Like you, I often keep silent rather than say something that might offend or shock.

helen devries said...

Costa Rican culture cannot cope with bluntness....in general. But when the politeness snaps, it snaps and then the outburst is remembered for years.

Nick said...

Helen: I can imagine. I'm a very polite person, seldom angry, so when I do get furious about something, it causes quite a stir!

Rummuser said...

I have no time for people who are untruthful and I avoid them. It never fails to amaze me that they are not aware that their lying is obvious and the listeners can see through their bluster.

Nick said...

Ramana: I think they often know very well that people can see through the lies, but they just carry on lying, assuming nobody will challenge them.

Hattie said...

During an argument very early in my marriage my husband said to me, "You are full of s--t." Instead of getting angry, I decided he was right and have tried ever since not to be full of s--t. Just keeping an eye on myself is what counts. If others are fooling themselves that's not my problem.

Nick said...

Hattie: There's probably a fairly high shit-component in my mind as well. I do try not to hold forth on subjects I know next to nothing about but keep quiet and listen to people who do. Or more likely people who don't but see nothing wrong with talking off the top of their head.

Liz Hinds said...

Gosh that is jolly deep but I do know what you mean. I wonder more if people are even honest with themselves let alone with others. Sometimes you hear people say things and you wonder if they realise just how untrue it is.

Nick said...

Liz: I think people are very frequently not honest with themselves (no doubt me included). They're too scared or embarrassed to admit their true inclinations, so they push them away and pretend they don't exist.