In common conversations, we humans often say things we don’t mean and aren’t true. No harm is intended but we have odd ways of conversing at times.
“How’s it going?”
It’s the common question from the casual acquaintance in business, at the grocery store or at the gym. Of course the questioner is simply saying “hello” and acknowledging the acquaintance. They really aren’t wanting or expecting much of a response.
That’s my most common response to the question. Often it’s a truthful response. But sometimes I’m lying horribly.
We humans also lie to ourselves. We tell ourselves we are not over eating when we really are. Or we blame MN DOT for being late due to road construction which we were well aware of ahead of time. Self lying is useful.
Other times we aren’t actively being dishonest with ourselves. We just have developed a flawed view of ourselves or situations that concern us. We think that we are telling ourselves or others “the truth”, when actually it’s just the truth as we wish it to be or fear that it may be. I might talk myself into believing that I’m a less selfish person than I really am because I volunteered for something in the community. Or I may justify skipping the sunscreen either because cancer is prevalent in my family and I think I will probably get it anyway or because I pretend that I’m immune from the possibility of melanoma, even though I’ve already had one bout with it.
When I lie to others, I don’t do it to be rude. In fact, sometimes I think it would be more rude to give an honest answer to a disinterested person when it’s not a good time for me. Plus, when I’m stressed, it’s easier to just proceed by autopilot rather than going into detail as to why things really aren’t going so well.
As to being dishonest with myself, that’s a more complicated thing. Honesty is hard. We spend years absorbing messages of all sorts about ourselves and we internalize many of those messages, some positive, some negative. But the thing is, they are all just messages. Messages are not the same thing as facts or truth. In fact, an over accumulation of messages becomes like an overstuffed refrigerator. I can’t find any of the three bottles of ketchup in my fridge so I conclude that I don’t have any ketchup for my hamburger and resolve to pick up another bottle the next time I’m at the grocery store. The truth gets lost in the mess.
Like the overflowing refrigerator, I think the solution starts with discarding bad messages. Maybe some messages were true at one time but they have outlived their freshness date. Other messages may have been distasteful from the beginning but were never thrown out. There is no obligation on we humans to absorb any message anyone gives us or that we give ourselves, just as there is no obligation to retain anything in our refrigerator.
With a less cluttered mind, free of the messages blocking a clear view of oneself, some clarity and truthfulness is possible. Usually that more truthful view will be kinder and gentler. It will almost certainly be more healthy and more accurate. The internal dystopia can be eased. Then, perhaps, I can more often be truthful when replying “Good” to “How’s it going?”
Copyright Daniel Blake May 2019