What’s the biggest lie you’ve told?
This post is in response to an exercise in Nancy Aronie’s book, Writing from the Heart, that asks you to write about a lie you’ve told.
One of the common lies we all tell is: ‘It wasn’t me.’ I’m sure, like me, you can come up with an example or two for that one.
My mother always claimed she could tell when I was lying when I was a boy. Something about me not being able to keep a ‘straight face’. Maybe she was lying. I know I got away with a few.
Recently, in my studies, I’ve become aware that one of the biggest lies we tell is made up of three little harmless words strung together: ‘I don’t know.’
I’m not talking about those words as an answer to a factual question like: ‘What is the capital of Uzbekistan?’
I’m talking about those words as the answer to a question that starts with words like: ‘How do you feel about…..?’ or ‘What do you think of…?’
What ‘I don’t know’ stands for is: ‘I don’t want to say.’
The truth is, we always know how we feel or what we think. If we are uncertain, we only have to allow ourselves a moment to tune in to ourselves to find out. Sometimes we say ‘I don’t know’ when we don’t want to voice an inconvenient truth. Other times we want to avoid or deny responsibility or we don’t want to upset our significant other.
When we use those words we are not being honest in our relationships or with ourselves.
Interestingly, the chapter in the book with this exercise is called: ‘To thine own self, write the bloody truth.’
The next time you’re tempted to say ‘I don’t know’ out of habit, catch yourself and take a moment to tune in. You might be surprised at the answer that comes into your awareness. I know I have been.
Another string of words we use unthinkingly that comes into the category of big lies is: ‘I love you.’
Not because we are not being honest but because we don’t know what those words mean.
I know that when I started using those words seriously, I thought I knew what I was saying but in reality I had no idea what they meant. Not even the guys who write the dictionaries know what the verb to love means – strong feelings of affection or sexual attraction. Really? Strong feelings of sexual attraction is also described as lust.
Loving is about giving of yourself freely with no stings attached. Love is about allowing life to unfold without becoming attached to particular outcomes. It’s not about ‘having and holding until death us do part.’ That’s called possessing, and maybe that’s why marriage is a contract or an agreement.
Loving is about being honest in relationships and not telling lies like: ‘I don’t know.’
Loving is being able to embrace and to let go.
Do you recognise these lies or am I the only one admitting to them?
Thanks for dropping by, Peter.
This week I spotted a book on a friend’s bookshelf, not one of those online bookshelves like on GoodReads but one with actual books on it. The book was: Crones don’t whine by Jean Shinoda Bolen.
Reading the book reminded me of the first time I had come across the term ‘crone’. It was when I was doing some Celtic Studies and learnt about the three faces of the feminine: the maiden, the mother and the crone.Those three faces also reflect the three obvious phases of growth: youth, maturity and old age.
In the West we do not value the old. Just look at the term we commonly use instead of crone: hag .When we refer to an older woman as an ‘old hag’ we are implying that she is old, dried up and useless.
The writer of Crones don’t whine gives us a much healthier definition of a crone as a wise woman, a woman who is authentic to herself and tells it like it is. A crone is a woman full of life not a dried up shell of a woman.
That juxtaposition of images of women in the third phase of life made me think about the way we use words to denigrate wise women or to devalue their role. Think about the word ‘witch’ and the uses to which it was put, and in some places in the world is still put.
Thinking about this use of words reminded me of something I had read in another book a couple of years ago. That book was The Gospel of Mary Magdalene by Jean-Yves Leloup.Fortunately, it has been translated from French to English, otherwise I wouldn’t have been reading it.
In that book I discovered that Pope Gregory I was the one who decided that Mary Magdalene had been a prostitute. One can only surmise why, but given that some of the so called Gnostic gospels, the ones suppressed by the Church, describe a very different Mary, one intimately linked with Jesus and one who obviously understood his message, and the fact that there is no description of Mary as a prostitute in any of the accepted Gospels, it seems to me that Gregory was out to discredit her and any role she had played. After all, the popes were setting up a boys club where the only role for women was in the serving classes.
Words have power and they can be used in ways to uphold, embellish or destroy. It may be time for each of us to consider or reconsider the words we use to describe others. What do the words you use tell you about the value you place on the people you use them to describe? What does using them tell you about yourself and your values?
One term that has had plenty of media coverage in Australia is ‘illegal immigrant’, used by politicians to describe anyone who attempts to come to Australia by boat via Indonesia seeking asylum. ‘Asylum seeker’ tells a story of desperation, of people fleeing from intolerable situations. “Illegal immigrant’ tells a different story, of people coming without permission, and has been used to justify offshore processing and indefinite detention. These practices are not restricted to Australia. Check out the current edition of The New Internationalist magazine.
A few posts back I wrote about self-honesty. It’s good for the soul of the individual. I’d suggest that it’s also good for the soul of the nation or the institution as well.
Who are we really fooling when we use words to label and denigrate instead of acting out of a sense of connection and compassion?
I invite you to reflect on the words you use to describe others and consider becoming part of the solution instead of contributing to the problem.
Thanks for dropping by, Peter
Self-honesty requires simply observing the mind, and the behaviour that flows from it, as it gestures itself out to the world. We think we can keep what’s in the mind secret, but if you observe what you do (or don’t) say or do, you’ll start to see that often the only person not aware of what you’re thinking is you. The body gives it away every time. We’ve all heard the one about actions speaking louder than words. Unfortunately, it’s true.
This week I started a self-honesty exercise, which involves asking yourself a series of questions and simply observing the thoughts that come into your awareness. No judging, just observing. This exercise is part of a practice that leads to genuine silence, the silencing of that voice that interprets everything and every thought in accordance with your conceptual framework, those things you believe about yourself and the world.
To give you an idea of how it works, here are a couple of the questions the teacher poses for us to consider:
- Have I ever had a murderous thought?
- Have I ever had -shall we call them – disrespectful sexual fantasies?
Most of us have a good boy/girl self image and we don’t have such thoughts, do we? Well maybe, if we’re being honest, we’ve had a couple but we certainly don’t have them on anything like a regular basis, do we? And, if we have such thoughts, we censure ourselves and suppress them. We certainly don’t admit having them to others. What would they think if they knew we wanted to kill them for that hurtful remark or for ignoring us or taking credit for our work? No, we have to maintain that good boy/girl self image we invested so much energy into constructing. So, we grin and bear it, and tell ourselves nobody knows how we feel or what we’re thinking. Strange how we often know what other people in those situations are thinking when we’re the perpetrator, isn’t it?
There are some urban myths out there on how often we think about sex. Regardless of the myths, we all think about sex. Maybe not every ten seconds but generally more than once a day. Whether you are aware of it or not, you are assessing everybody you meet from a sexual perspective, even if only fleetingly, and sometimes you might indulge yourself with a prolonged fantasy……and if you suppress it, it comes back later as one of those hot and sweaty dreams. The body again, letting you know what you were thinking.
And, if we’re honest we’ve all wanted to kill somebody at sometime. There have been lots of nights recently when I’ve wanted to kill someone, while watching the TV news.
Maybe it’s not surprising I have murderous thoughts or sexual fantasies. After all, I’m into crime writing. This week, for example, I killed the same character twice – I wasn’t happy with the result of the first attempt. Sure, he was dead, that’s generally the case if you use a car bomb, but I’didn’t like the mess. I had to find another way to suit the storyline I’m developing. You can find out how I, or rather Clare because I’m not actually in the story, did it when The Holiday comes out later in the year.
A little ironic that we spend so much energy judging ourselves for the murderous thoughts and sexual fantasies we have, while at the same time we enjoy crime stories full of murders and all sorts of sexual fantasies. I’m no different, I’m currently reading Above Suspicion by Lynda La Plante – it’s full of murders and sexual fantasies.
You can read my murderous thoughts and sexual fantasies. I’m not ashamed of them. It’s a lot of fun, liberating even, getting them out in the open.
The question I invite you ponder is this:
- if you’re ashamed of your own murderous thoughts and sexual fantasies, why do you enjoy reading other people’s?
I need to go and write some of those words required to meeting my writing goals.
Thanks for dropping by, Peter