I lie a lot. I didn’t realize that until I started following Sam Harris, the Author of Lying, on Twitter (I highly recommend following him, by the way — dude’s got a great first name). A few days ago one of my Twitter buds retweeted his challenge below, which is how I was introduced to Sam (great name, by the way) and his work.
#LYING challenge: Do not tell a lie — not even a “white” one — for the next 7 days. You will learn a lot about yourself by next week.
— Sam Harris (@SamHarrisOrg) November 5, 2013
Instead of pledging not to tell a lie, I decided to first just be cognizant of the lies I found myself telling. I wanted to see how terrible of a person I am before I decided to quit lying cold turkey for a week. And holy cow. If more lies make you a worse person, I’m Joker from Dark Knight bad. The vast majority of the lies I heard myself telling were completely meaningless: they didn’t really benefit me in any way that telling the truth wouldn’t. It made no sense to me.
But I guess that some men just want to watch the world burn.
White lies, where I would find myself saying something untruthful for the perceived benefit of someone else, were also common. But, again, I can’t think of any case where I would’ve actually done the person harm by telling the truth.
Even the lies that were meaningful detours from the truth were not only completely unnecessary, but examples of me making a poor life choice. I’m not sure why I told them, because rational choice theory would make a clear argument against the lie. The tiny potential short-term benefit doesn’t come close to escaping the shadow of now I must uphold this lie forever. But I told them nonetheless. Because who doesn’t enjoy crippling anxiety?
“Unlike statements of fact, which require no further work on our part, lies must be continually protected from collisions with reality.”
— Sam Harris, Lying
I found myself wondering, for the first time in my life (and am currently wondering again), how many lies I’ve told in my entire life. Or, even more worrisome, what the ratio of truths-to-lies is in my average day. This, my friends, is a rabbit hole I do not recommend. Take the blue pill, keep living your life, and thank me later, because it gets dark fast (not quite “why do I have electric plugs instead of nipples?” dark, but definitely “you think that’s air you’re breathing now?” kind of dark). If you do wander down this twisting corridor, let me know when you get to the part where you start to wonder what truth really is, if anything you’ve ever known was true, and if perhaps the things you think are lies are actually facts and I’ve just been lying to myself and oh god my nose is bleeding.
So. Anyway. The title of this thought. I’m going to do that. For real. Starting now: (and I would love for you to do the same thing, then we can share our thoughts next week. You know, unless you’re an unscrupulous scumbag… like, well, me?) No lies for 168 hours. No white lies, no lying by omission, nada. Did you know it’s impossible to lie in question form? But I’m not even going to use that trick. It’s going to be tough, and I’m already anxious thinking about it, but for the next week I am not going to be dishonest at all.
Oh god my nose is bleeding.
Bonus! Here’s a great RSA Animate about honest and dishonesty. If you wanna chat, use the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts.