Are you a person of your word? Is there authenticity and honesty in each of your sentences? Do you work hard to be truthful in all things?
Is Your Truth Telling Hard Wired?
A few years ago, friends of mine went through a tremendously difficult time with their son. When this young man hit high school, he started to do drugs socially and align himself with a tough crowd. The deceit began early. Lies about whom he was with and what he was doing. Out of desperation, the parents did some digging only to find out he was now not just using, but dealing drugs and hanging with a dangerous, much older crowd. The parents, after exercising every option, tactic and resource placed this boy in a facility in Utah that specializes in rehabilitating young people with drug and behavioral problems.
Early in his stay, he had a scheduled, supervised call with his parents. Something interesting happened during that call that struck me deeply when his mother relayed the event back to me.
My friend and her husband were on the phone with their son and his assigned counselor. They were chatting about their son’s day. Their son made the following statement. “Oh ya, and we had to run today, they made us do like 100 laps!!” The counselor immediately interjected and announced the phone call was over. The parents were bewildered. What had just happened on the other end of the line? The counselor explained something to the son before they hung up. “If you cannot tell the truth in the small things, you will never tell the truth about the big things, when there is more at stake, more to lose.”
It was not “100” laps; it was ten. The counselor hung up the phone.
This incident stuck with me. I am a storyteller by nature, and I have a tendency toward making my stories a little “big fish,” if you know what I mean. I like the drama, the emphasis, and the showmanship of a good story! Until this moment I had not thought much about it.
The counselor’s decision during the call was a concerted effort to work on behavior change in this child. They were working toward his choices and actions being predicated on the values of integrity and authenticity. This counselor made me consider that if I don’t honor the truth in every detail, does it become much simpler to tweak, change or bend the truth in situations that are more costly to me personally?
Conversely, does telling the truth unconditionally, never stretching or exaggerating reality, line me up to be more clear and honest in the bigger conversations?
I believe it does.
Our brains are designed to find efficiencies. Think about learning to ride a bike. When you aspire to do something complicated, such as the highly coordinated act of riding a bike, your brain must lay down an initial path of thousands of little connections just to just get your feet on the pedals. Eventually, that process becomes efficient, even slick, like a perfectly paved highway. Now your brain knows to lean right, not left. It knows to engage certain muscles to keep you from launching off the handlebars when slowing down – Thousands of coordinated movements that take you from awkward to efficient.
Truth telling is the same. The more we practice robust honesty, the more efficiently our brain picks the well-paved “truth” pathway in situations where we have choice. By practicing truth telling in the small things, we build super highways toward truth and away from stretching, exaggerating or fibbing. We essentially “hardwire” the pathway toward truthfulness.
Now you may shake your head and say, “Oh, Heather, I never lie,” but I challenge you. Listen to your dialogue in the little things. Are there areas where you flex a little?
“Tell her I am out.”
“I never received that notice.”
“Sorry, traffic was a bear.”
“I totally love that outfit.”
“I wasn’t offended by what you said.”
“This will be our little secret.”
When you start to dig in, it is surprising for most of us how often we are a little left of absolute truth. These little white lies or omissions chip away at the integrity of our character and make it too easy to make the wrong decision when the truth actually matters. If you were to practice passionate truth telling, imagine the super highway that would be constructed in honor of honesty.
My challenge to you this week is to pay attention. Listen to the statements you say. Are there areas you can be more truthful, even if it seems like it wouldn’t matter? The more you practice this intentional truth-telling, the more integrity you build up in, the bigger areas of your life. It will become hardwired to say ten laps, even when 100 laps sounds better.
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