“The truth,” said William Spiver, “is a slippery thing. I doubt that you will ever get to The Truth. You may get to a version of the truth. But The Truth? I doubt it very seriously.”
from: Flora and Ulysses
written by Kate DiCamillo
illustrated by K. G. Campbell
Candlewick Press, 2013
My mom liked to tell us she learned her definition of conscience from reading about Native Americans. Here it is.
Our conscience is a triangle that lives in our hearts. When we do something we know is wrong, like telling a lie, the triangle turns. It hurts. After so many lies and wrong deeds and mistakes, the points of the triangle get worn down and it doesn’t hurt so much when it turns in our hearts.
Science corroborates this. An experiment by Tali Sharot, a neuroscientist at University College London, and colleagues showed how the brain becomes inured to the stress or emotional discomfort that happens when we lie, making it easier to tell the next fib. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/06/lying-hoax-false-fibs-science/. One lie often leads to another.
Science has also shown that everyone lies. Some of us lie more, some lie less. Some lie because they want to appear better than they are (or than they think they are). Some people lie to make others laugh. Some lie to cover up a mistake and avoid consequences. Only 7% of people in one study said they didn’t know why they lie.
The other side of the coin is that science has shown that in general, people are not very good at knowing when someone is lying to them. Most of us are trusting. We want to believe what we are told. Pamela Meyer calls lying a cooperative act.
In her TED talk delivered in July, 2011, she says lying is an attempt to bridge the gap between our fantasies about who we wish we were, how we wish we could be, with what we’re really like.
But, lies destroy trust. I think that’s where our society is right now. What we are told and what we believe doesn’t often match up. And our conscience triangle is hurting.
How can we make it better? Stop listening is not the answer. We need to listen more. Pay more attention. Ask more questions. Become more involved in our communities.
Do more good. Tell more truth. Play fair.
Love more. Smile more. Hug more. Kiss our children and grandchildren more.
I’ll sign out with Garrison Keillor’s famous advice:
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.
Not too much is more important than that.