One Week Without Lying: The Setup

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“People think that a liar gains a victory over his victim. What I’ve learned is that a lie is an act of self-abdication, because one surrenders one’s reality to the person to whom one lies, making that person one’s master, condemning oneself from then on to faking the sort of reality that person’s view requires to be faked…The man who lies to the world, is the world’s slave from then on…” – Ayn Rand via Atlas Shrugged

Anyone who has known me for longer than thirty minutes would be surprised to see me use an Ayn Rand quote, and yet, here I am.  While I might not agree with everything she has to say, I’ve always particularly liked this quote, and now it has become my central motivation for my next challenge, One Week Without Lying.

I’ve had a few friends over the years who were compulsive liars–Holden Caulfield style.  Honestly, I’ve never minded keeping them as friends even knowing this, primarily because they always have pretty good stories to tell about the time they went on a date with Joan Rivers or joined a rebel pirate fleet off the coast of Somalia.  Still, these are not people I would trust, generally I try to insulate myself from them.

I don’t think I’ve ever been a compulsive liar myself, but I’ve definitely told a few in my time.  Most have been white lies that made my life more convenient without really disparaging others, even sometimes sparing their feelings.  Even so, a lie is a lie, and lies have consequences, such as….

1. Lying causes unnecessary stress

I can remember a few lies I told when I was younger that would start to snowball as soon as the words were out of my mouth.  Suddenly, I had to keep the lie going to save face and invent all sorts of other tiny fictions to support my original claim.  Obviously this is no way to live.  As Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

2. Lying creates mistrust

This is the obvious one.  If you lie to others and are caught, anyone in the know will be very unlikely to trust you again.  But even if you aren’t caught, per se, people have a sixth sense of social evaluation and can often sense if you’re being dishonest, even if they don’t know exactly what about.  Most all of the compulsive liars I know have no idea others are onto them, but that is largely because of this next point:

3. The worst lies are the ones you tell yourself

Even if many of us have outgrown telling childish lies, making preposterous excuses, or lying compulsively, we are all the victims of the lies we tell ourselves.  Why do we do it?  We lie to make ourselves feel better in the short term at the expense of our future selves.

Do any of these sound familiar?
  • “All I need is _____, then everything will be perfect”
  • “I would love to ______, but I just don’t have the time”
  • “I will. All I need is ______.”

And the most sinister of all:

  • “Tomorrow.”

By telling ourselves these lies, we pander to our own sense of futility, telling ourselves it’s okay not to do what we want or be who we want to be right now, because we don’t have the means or resources to do so.

I for one feel exhausted by it all.  How great would it be to be one hundred percent honest with yourself and others, without fail, and be loved despite your shortcomings?  Well, I’m going to do my best to find out this week.

What I want to learn through One Week Without Lying:

  • How often do I lie without even realizing it?
  • Are “white lies” ever appropriate?  What happens when you are brutally honest instead?
  • Do I lie to myself?  What about?  If so, what’s the truth?

Ask me anything

In addition, I’ll be fielding questions on Twitter @scottmarquart all week and I cannot tell a lie.  So ask me anything!

While I’m sorting through all this, I will be continuing life as usual, which means being wholly honest with my boss and supervisors (this should be interesting), as well as all the other people in my life.  I’m most curious what will happen when a table at the restaurant asks me what I think about ______ and I have to tell them how I really feel…  Regardless, it should provide for some good entertainment.  So, here’s to a week of truth, virtue, and rectitude!

may we all get better together.


Start your own One Week With/out challenge!  Begin here.