“The best liar is the one who believes their own lies.” – Mike Peiman
I learned a new word this morning: “Paltering“: speaking a true but irrelevant statement in order to mislead. Viewed by the “palterers” as more ethical than lying, and by the recipients – as a plain old lie.
I was spanked once in my life. Once only. At the age of five I cut a hole in an air mattress because I was curious what would happen. When challenged, I lied. Repeatedly. My father knew better, and taught me a lesson about honesty that I’ve never forgotten.
My father made a good choice that day. He told me then, and I was so angry to hear it, “this hurts me more than it hurts you.” I understand now, as a grown man and father, there was some real truth to that.
I seem to be an exceptional rarity in our world, in our culture, in my commitment to truth. I often have people challenge me, “Do you want truth, or do you want love?”, or “Would you rather be right, or would you rather have love?” Well, shit. Fuck that. That’s some broken thought.
Truth in Love, Love in Truth. I’ll have them both, thank you.
What is truth?
Here’s how it works: Truth is reality. Reality is truth.
If you disagree, then tell yourself you can fly and go walk off a cliff. The truth will become a little more clear, as reality makes its impact.
And to illuminate this slightly with an essential distinction: There are two basic realms of truth in our world; subjective, and objective. Our experienced truth, and the external truth of physical reality. Both are essential, and they exist in distinct yet overlapping domains. Where truth becomes war is when people are so attached to subjective truth — their inner truth, their experienced of life — that they do not seek for the common ground of shared reality (and, here’s a fun thought: do people even know or tell the whole truth about their inner reality?). Without grounding ourselves in shared, physical reality, we are delusional. By definition. Accomplished neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor opens her famous TED talk by speaking about her brother’s schizophrenia in these terms.
Reality is our common ground. When we pursue a closer relationship with reality, for the sake of our highest ideals and values, then we are making peace in the world. Blessed be.
Love in lies is poison.
The beloved reacts defensively, aggressively to my truth; and as someone committed to truth, to reality, to common ground and understanding — knowing myself as a fallible human with a partial perspective on things – I listen. I consider. I bend my own conception of reality to accommodate. But if we are not both pursuing the same value, the same virtue of truth and reality — in short, if we are not both more or less equally committed to honesty, AND capable of it — then I’m fucked, and my reality gets fucked up. And I was, and it did, in my marriage and family, much to EVERYONE’s detriment. No good comes of putting ego before truth. No good at all.
Lies are bad enough, but we can guard and defend against them, when we are strong and centered, when we cultivate discernment. But love in lies – damn. Love is the honeypot; love lures us in; love has us open up the deepest, most intimate and vulnerable recesses of our being, our conception of ourselves and our world – and if it is housed in lies, that poison can seep into our deepest identity, our deepest understanding of reality, and make us sick. It can kill. It is NOT GOOD.
Renowned clinical psychologist and professor Jordan Peterson speaks about truth and lies in these terms:
“The worst thing that you can do to someone is to lie to them. You don’t lie to people. You don’t lie to yourself. Because it warps you. It warps the structure of reality itself. And you don’t wanna do that because it will kick back and take you out.”
This is NOT easy work. The truth cuts through illusions, it destroys delusion. This is no game, and it is not comfortable. The truth can be a bitter pill, and no amount of sugar-coating will make it easy to swallow. If we cannot handle discomfort, challenge, bitter medicine, then we will be consigned to a life less than true, and we will perpetuate a cycle of war and trauma and madness.
For everyone’s sake, grow strong; face the truth. Be wise; practice strengthening incrementally. Take larger doses over time. But ensure that you are turning towards truth consistently, not away. Train yourself to notice the sensation and effects of internal confrontation vs. avoidance. Learn about logical fallacies, and work diligently to eliminate them from your inner and outer dialogues.
Train yourself to recognize and admit when you’re wrong; even to celebrate it, because you know you are developing your self-awareness, your integrity, your self-consistency, your power in life.
Tell the truth – to yourself before all. Don’t lie. Don’t palter. Don’t obfuscate. The world needs truth now more than ever – and it often begins with “I don’t know. I certainly don’t know it all. I do know that as a fallible human being, my memory and perception are biased and imperfect, so I’ll look as deeply and closely as I can, and hold my mind open against the conditioned fear of being wrong, against the reflexive closing of defensive ego, against the comfort of my certainty.”
For Truth AND for Love. Namaste.