The Price of a Lie and the Lance of Truth

Collage by Harold Krieger depicting Laing and Russell metaphorically wielding the Lance of Truth.

By Roberta Russell

To keep our social lives well-oiled and running smoothly, most of us resort to deception in varying degrees. The purpose of deception is concealment. *

Here’s the rub. If what you are hiding is eventually revealed, will there be trouble, or will your purpose have been achieved? Suppose you took several years off your age on social media, a common gambit. As intended, this may allow you to meet a younger prospect and make a meaningful connection before you reveal the years you subtracted. Age is after all, just a number. If the ruse worked, your now-discovered, uncommonly youthful demeanor has given you a pass, whereas you might have been rejected had your real age been the cut-off point of your new match at the outset. Often, on dating sites, both would-be-partners make some such expedient adjustment to the truth. I did, but would correct my age right away.

However, what if your misrepresentation is more substantive and longer lasting; what if you have now promised to pay a debt to a colleague for overdue pay? Relieved by the immediacy of your promise, she now waits expectantly, but you do nothing.

The die is cast. A high-minded, socially conscious, and accomplished friend of mine, in this situation, had grown to trust his pal, replete with affectionate nicknames and guidance in times of trouble. Even though this friend has promised to pay his debt to her, he has not done so. In his brain he hears this common refrain—“I do not have the money,” even though, his assets are worth more than he will ever spend.

His unintended benefactor’s indulgence may actually be a form of collusion with him, in his reluctance to pay. Or perhaps this is an expression of her own lack of self-worth. Nevertheless, whether by commission or omission, there is a price to pay for a breach of trust. The dubious benefits of non-payment and the consequent withdrawal of affection that usually occurs in its wake are taken at the expense of well-being and aliveness.

When I perceive an intentional deception in my midst, I make an adjustment by becoming less trusting. I pull back and am more suspicious of the world around me. There is a spread of effect.

Confucius said, “Those who know the truth are not equal to those who love it.”

Apologizing and finding a way to make good on your word discharges a tremendous amount of energy and tension. The power released can be used to form a more genuine, resilient, and intimate relationship.

The lance of truth often creates disturbing changes, but the results can be invigorating. I have discovered that money, a subject even more taboo than sex, has its own karma. We spend our money where we get value or so it should be. Truly what you pay people is one way of acknowledging their value to you. So why not pay back what you owe?

If your discretionary income is primarily dedicated to family, what does that say about your capacity to invest in the people who have come to know and love you since your introduction to the world?

It’s never too late to reprioritize, to perceive the world with fresh eyes. My father told me, “A man is only as good as his word.” The effects of truth and trust reverberate. It is never too late to learn what is true, in order to do what is right.

* “The Price of a Lie” is a chapter in R.D. Laing & Me: Lessons in Love with R.D. Laing. The book is downloadable free from Roberta Russell is the author of R.D. Laing & Me: Lessons in Love with R.D. Laing (Hillgarth Press, 1992), Report on Effective Psychotherapy: Legislative Testimony (Hillgarth Press, 1981, 1984,1994), and Report on Permanent Weight Loss (Columbia Academic Commons, 2017).

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