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The Ten Commandments of Everyday Living: 5

Be honest in deed and truthful in word – avoid exaggeration and compromising the truth for the sake of a good line.

The extent to which we can be honest in our dealings with ourselves and the rest of the world is the measure our self-acceptance.

When we lie we are concealing a part of ourselves.  Why do we need to do that?  That is what a spiritually aware person needs to find out.  We also need to find out the ways in which we lie because much lying is done largely unconsciously.  But let us deal with one thing at a time.

The intentional lie is the one that is designed to create a certain kind of impression upon the recipient. The reason for the deception is not the same thing as the reason why we lie.  The reason for the lie will pertain to the details of the situation; the reason why we lie pertains to our own disinclination to expose some part of ourselves of which we are only too aware – or we would not be trying to mask it with a lie.

Whether it is written on a form, delivered in an interview or told in casual conversation, the intentional lie is saying that we know that we ourselves, what we have to bring to the situation, what we intend doing or what we have done are not good enough.  And that is what should concern a spiritually aware person because it is towards that perceived deficiency that he should be sending attention. Why is it not good enough?  How can it be made good enough?  The spiritually aware person knows -or needs to learn- that he is given his time in incarnation to attend to such things, not to cheat himself through cheating others.  To understand the need for the deception is far more useful than simply feeling guilty because we have said or done something dishonest.

Surely, a lie sets in motion its own train of consequences and we should be aware of this; but the immediate issue is the denial of self and the damage done by this.  Each lie is an act of disownment and the cumulative effect of this is destructive of a person’s chances of finding self-acceptance and being given acceptance by others.

An intentional lie is a dangerous thing and should be handled with care: it will make a weakness weaker.  As people working on self, can we risk this?  We should at least identify the aspect of ourselves we are indulging before making the deception. 

Interestingly, each year we deal with a considerable number of people who, despite the fact that our web site gives so much freely, try and confuse our systems to get yet more from us without paying.  It is for them to know what good they think that this can do.

Then there are what in England, at least, are called ‘white lies’.  White lies are those used to avoid mentioning matters that are considered socially embarrassing or likely to cause hurt to another.  In terms of personal integrity, white lies are generally considered more acceptable, socially and personally.  Unwisely so.  We may say that we use white lies in order to spare another but this is an effect, not the basic cause of the lie: the basic cause is in that part of ourselves that hates the discomfort of knowing we have caused hurt, embarrassment and disappointment, regardless of the circumstances.  Spiritual aspirants are often rather proud of that part of themselves that attests to their sensitivity, but  anyone trying to sort out  his or her own truth should watch those white lies because they can be very pernicious, giving as they do, agreement and endorsement to the expectations that another has of us.  If we simply want a quiet life then we may be happy to enter into this kind of deal, but if we are trying to live more authentically and freely, we need to watch out for the white lie.  In its acquiescence it may be more damaging than the overt lie used intentionally to manipulate a situation.

We are not responsible for the expectations of others; they are.  If we take on that task we are acquiescing to the tyranny of their expectations in our lives.  Those with Libra strong in their charts and planets in Houses 7&8 need to be particularly aware of this tendency to bring confusions, complications and powerlessness into their lives by the use of white lies and economies involving the truth.  Aries and House 1 cannot be bothered with pretence: they are focused and direct which is why their energy is strong and invigorating.

I am not saying do not ever tell white lies as a kindness to another; I am saying, consider the implications of needing to give a person what they want to hear, and who, really, this lie is serving, and then let the circumstances decide whether it is justifiable or not.

A lie from a place of strength and self-control is a very different thing: then we do not call it a lie but conscious dissemblance.  Professional veneers mask the mood and inclinations of the personality holding that function.  We accept that and would not like it if it were otherwise.

Certain spiritual traditions encourage students to use conscious dissemblance as a way to shake off a constricting identification with a certain way of presenting self and to release  creative capacity.  It is wholly manipulative in intention, but not necessarily of others.

Spiritual teachers are dissemblers and they have to take full responsibility for this.  They will pay a very high price if the dissemblance falls to the level of a lie.  How and why they dissemble is for the teacher to know and for their students to eventually understand as a necessary part of the coming-of-age process.  At the beginning of the association a student is not ready for this realisation, and it is from this unreadiness that so much guru worship originates.

Less easy to detect than the intentional lies are the lies that we tell ourselves on an almost continuous basis by way of self-justification and explanation.  Sometimes the explanations are voiced to others, sometimes not; almost always they will be used to explain why we have not or will not be doing something.

Just catch yourself in the process of backing out of an arrangement in which you no longer want to be involved, a piece of work that you have not completed, a diet that you want to give up, a payment you do not want to make, or the question you do not want to have to answer.  You will find out a great deal about yourself and about the process of lying to ourselves.  (We might as well make our lying useful to us.  We do enough of it!)

Our inventions are very revealing of what we fear people will judge and despise us for.  So the bone-idle person speaks of busyness, and the friendless person of too many  unwelcome social engagements.  The person who is afraid of the challenge will say that he is bored or unconcerned by matters that confront him.  The loveless will claim a lack of interest in love, and the person who does not want to exercise will use health problems as an excuse.  The person who fears ordinariness or emotional disclosure will exaggerate and try to be humorous.

Much British humour is based upon the creation and recounting of a falsified, more controlled relationship between self and other, or self and the circumstances which have taken place.  It is, at heart, evasion of the unpardonable offence of being ordinary, having human reactions, some of which may be painful and undignified, to the things which we experience.  We call it irony although another term for it is dysfunctionality.

These are all examples of the way we lie to ourselves.  So accustomed to doing it, we are barely aware of what we are doing; so accustomed to passing it off as the truth that we are disconcerted to find it is in fact lying.

Gurdjieff said it is not what we do not do that matters but the reasons that we give for not doing it.  Through these justifications and excuses, spoken or unspoken, we are creating a reality from a fabric of lies and getting further and further away from the truth of ourselves.  Much illness is caused by this process of needing to find excuses.

We will be angry if we lie and are found out because it is like being found with our pants down.  Students get embarrassed and then very angry with teachers who challenge their explanations and excuses even though they may be suffering like hell in the grip of barely conscious self-deception, and even though there will be precious few occasions in a lifetime to have the strategy exposed (and lying of this kind is always part of a strategy).  Catching one lie is like getting a good hold on a piece of bindweed: it is possible to pull away the lot.  If the opportunity is resisted then a student will have to lie even harder to try to prove the teacher was wrong.  That is the nature of lying: it has to be sustained by more lying.

We lose many students each year to this process, but this month’s Letter of the Month is  from one who has held her ground and understands the point of the process if not all that is involved.  Her courage is remarkable and so too will be the rewards.

To be honest and direct is a great freedom.  It releases us from complications and misunderstandings and restores self-worth.  It gives us back our lives to make a fresh start.  It encourages us to say why not to a challenge, instead of falling back on cannot.  It releases more energy than you can possibly imagine.  And the interesting thing is that despite all our fears, the repercussions of being honest are never as negative over time as those resulting from a lie.

Prove it to yourself.  Why not?

At first just listen to yourself giving our intentional lies and making excuses.

Why are you doing it? What are you trying to conceal?  Understand this first before resolving to stop.


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