Monday, November 19, 2007
Two weeks ago, I took my first workshop with the Human Awareness Institute, an organization devoted to helping people have more loving and effective relationships. The workshop turned my life upside down. Tucked in the back of our handouts was this essay by the organization's founder, the late Stan Dale, on the effect of truth on our relationships.
"When we lie, we destroy relationships - both the one we have with ourselves and those we have with others," he says. "The only true foundation a relationship can be built on is trust. So many relationships are falling apart because trust - if it was ever there - is being eroded."
After so many experiences where my dishonesty -- or my partner's lack of honesty -- has destroyed my intimate relationships, I now feel that there is only one way to relate, truthfully, and with blunt, radical honesty.
Trusting And Truthing
An honest look at the effects of dishonesty
by Stan Dale
One of the articles in Friends & Lovers (IC#10)
Summer 1985, Page 25
Copyright (c)1985, 1997 by Context Institute
WHETHER WE'RE AWARE of it or not, we human beings communicate 24 hours a day. Even in dreams we communicate. Even when we don't say anything we communicate. Our relationships are built or destroyed by communication - and there's virtually nothing else involved in a personal relationship except one form of communication or another.
Throughout my life as a husband, lover, father, friend and therapist, I have both experienced and observed the destructive power of dishonest communication. When we lie, we destroy relationships - both the one we have with ourselves and those we have with others. Lying is counter communication. It erodes the very foundation of a relationship. It is a time bomb that will eventually destroy the relationship.
To tell a lie weakens the already weak esteem of the lie-teller. The person to whom the lie is told, whether that person finds out the truth or not, feels the lie's effects. Why? Because lies are negative communications. They take away what is attempting to be built. The only true foundation a relationship can be built on is trust. So many relationships are falling apart because trust - if it was ever there - is being eroded. One more lie; one more time bomb.
Then one day, ka-BOOM! Why? Because communication finally broke down beyond the point of no return. If relationships are communication with trust as their foundations, then honesty is the cornerstone. Dishonesty is a protective device. Lies are protective devices. Lies are told because the person telling them believes that he/she has no other choice.
However, we're being two-faced if we tell someone that we love them - and then also lie to them. There can be no real love without trust. We'd be protecting ourselves from the very person we need never fear. If we don't trust the person we say we love, how can we ever be intimate? How can we ever be vulnerable? And if we can't be intimate and vulnerable, what do we have but a lie?
Lies are protective devices. We think we are protecting the other person when we lie, but in reality we are protecting ourselves. When we lie, we set the time bomb ticking, and the explosion will rip through the delicate fabric we attempt to weave between ourselves and someone else.
There are two basic lies - the overt and the covert. The overt lie is usually spoken. It's a falsehood. Even a little white one.
The covert lie is more subtle, and the most often used. Its telltale signs are usually seen in body language - such as darting eyes, downcast eyes, side-glancing eyes, twitching of some part of our extremities, falre smiles, a deadpan face and so on. In other words, it's something that needs to be said, but isn't. The covert lie is usually more damaging than the bald-faced lie because the other person may never perceive that something is wrong. Reading body language takes quite a bit of experience. If covert lying can be detected, however, we can defuse the time bombs before they explode.
Envision a gorge. The only thing connecting the two land masses is a bridge built by the hands of those who dare to risk. Isn't that the process two people take when they try to establish a friendship? Here are two entities wishing to connect. They put out furtive feelers at first. Then they get slightly bolder the more they feel they can trust.
Each communication, no matter how conveyed, is one more plank in that bridge. The more honestly we communicate, the more we get to know one another, and the stronger the bridge gets. The more we get to know each other, the sooner we can lower the barriers of self protection. We almost always approach the others like knights in armor. Slowly we shake their hand, "checking for weapons" as in the days of old. Then slower yet, we raise the visor to get to "see" the other person.
Why are we so armored? Probably because intimacy is so frightening to us. In reality, it is probably the single most frightening thing we face. The effect of being totally intimate is being totally naked - emotionally, psychically, and possibly even physically. It is to let every part of me connect or touch with every part of you.
It is total vulnerability. Now I am totally defenseless. When we are defenseless, we fear that "now you will walk all over my unprotected guts with your cleats. You will hurt me in ways no other person could."
It seems that what we cherish most, we chase away in so many creative, fearful ways. For every time we lie, hiding our "nakedness," we are telling the other person, "I don't trust you!" Not in so many words, of course, and that's another contributing cause to the downfall of that painstakingly built bridge between two people. After all, who trusts a bridge with loose or missing planks?
We are so afraid of hurting others and of being hurt that we do the very thing that is guaranteed to destroy what we cherish. Every time we lie, overtly or covertly, we drive another nail into the coffin that will hold our dead relationship.
The paradox of being totally naked, vulnerable and intimate is that we are also totally potent. In reality, we cannot hurt or be hurt unless we choose it. Being naked, vulnerable and intimate with someone else is first to say that we are totally naked, vulnerable and intimate with ourselves.
That's the ultimate question: Do we trust ourselves or not? Do we trust that we can handle whatever comes up; or will we run scared, hiding in the tunnel of darkness that is laden with ignorance and fear?
The decision, of course, is up to each one of us. How long are we willing to live the lie? Or will we defuse the time bomb that would otherwise destroy us and those we love?