I was reading an article recently about the fear parents have when their kids ask them about the past. Do they tell them the truth about their sometimes sordid past, that they smoked marijuana at 15, when they first had sex, whether it was in or out of wedlock, or not? Do they withhold the truth? Or do they out and out lie?
In many situations, we don’t tell all. Sometimes it’s to avoid judgment, sometimes to avoid hurting someone, and at other times, it’s to manipulate for other reasons. What happens in relationships when truths are not shared, be they romantic relationships or parental ones, friendships or collegial?
What about the times we pretend we’re happy with things as they are in a relationship? No, I don’t really want to go out with the boys and play poker, smoke and get plowed. I’d much rather stay home with you and watch Titanic, honey. A small matter, but what happens when it’s something bigger? What happens when you want to climb Mount Everest, or your Mount Everest, and he doesn’t want you to?
I often hear people talking about how they’d like to …, want to …, would rather…, wish they could tell someone …, only to stop in mid-hope by the fear that someone will disapprove, cut them off, withhold affection, leave them. It’s not a pleasant prospect. And I’m not just talking about lovers. Think about all the things you haven’t told your parents, siblings, friends. Think about the things they haven’t told you.
So we have some situations here that come up often. Are we going to try to manipulate our kids by not being honest about the past, pretending to be the kind of person we’d like them to be? Or the person we wish we’d been? Are we going to keep a relationship going based on pretending to be someone who we’re not?
So here’s my bottom line. Tell the truth. Possibly the world’s foremost expert on lies, Paul Ekman, in Telling Lies, says we all lie. I can see it. When she asks if the dress looks okay on her, don’t say it makes her hips look big, tell her the color makes her eyes look greener. When your kid asks what drugs you did as a teenager, you might give him the short list. But apart from a little nip and tuck on the truth, tell it like it is. For kids, this would be in an age appropriate manner. And, like the woman and the dress, consider what the person is really asking. She doesn’t want to know if she looks fat, she wants to know if you think she looks good, if you love her even though she’s put on a few pounds. Your kids don’t want to know what drugs you did, when and with whom, they want to know if they should be using drugs or hanging with people who do. They want to know if they can make mistakes. They want to know if you’ll love them no matter what. So just show them the love...that’s all we really want, isn’t it?
If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. Mark Twain