The Least Talked About Enemy of Personal Growth

by Scott - 76 Comments

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Four months ago I committed to completely cutting lying out of my life.

The positive results from this change have been shocking and hopefully serve as a potent motivator to consider doing the same in your own life.

In the process of striving for 100% honesty at all times, I’ve realized that:

a) I used to tell told lots of baby lies.

b) Lying is one of the most crippling things to your personal growth.

Below I want to explain how lying, even in the most minuscule forms, is hindering you from becoming the most virtuous, courageous, happy member of society that you can be…

But first, have you ever heard someone say this?

 “Honesty Is Very Important to Me”

If you asked most people whether they’re honest, I bet 99% of people out would respond absolutely.

Yet many of these people constantly tell little lies because it’s more convenient than telling the truth.

self-aware

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

Maybe a co-worker asks whether you saw their email…

Even though you saw it, you reply “not yet” because you don’t feel like dealing with their questions right now.

Or your girlfriend asks why you didn’t text her back…

Instead of saying you didn’t because you found her behavior annoying, you tell her you fell asleep to avoid confrontation.

Just the other day my mom asked me if I went to the doctor’s office because I was sick…

I hadn’t yet. I could say no and deal with the inevitable coaxing, or say yes and avoid it all together.

Before this change, I probably would have said yes.

For whatever reason, many people don’t consider altering the truth in seemingly inconsequential circumstances lying.

They regularly tell ‘baby lies’ to make their lives more convenient, yet they say that they cling to honesty as part of their core ethos.

At least that’s what I did.

What Happens When You Live Out Liar Liar?

I never thought I was a liar.

Truthfully, my moral fiber is something I’ve always prided myself on and honesty was an integral part of that.

But I didn’t realize how often I told little lies to make my life more convenient until my roommates Ben and Charlie pointed out many peoples’ tendency to do this.

This realization prompted a personal pact to tell the 100% truth no matter what…even when it forced me into uncomfortable and embarrassing positions.

Well, I’m four months into living out the movie Liar Liar and can confirm it’s been an eye opening experience.

self-aware

I’ll be the first to admit that I may have slipped up here and there, but I can only recall a few instances where I specifically remember saying something that wasn’t the truth.

Usually this was out of unconscious habit more than anything else.

In the process of being totally honest in every interaction, I definitely turned some people off…

It’s much harder to tell a new acquaintance at a party that you’re going to go mingle with other people now because “you’re seeking true love” than saying you’re leaving a conversation “to go the bathroom or grab a drink” (my former go to’s).

BUT, I also became closer to many people, both strangers and close friends because I was presenting my truest self.

Above all, I realized that all forms of lying prevent people from stepping into greatness and happiness.

How Lying Prevents You From Becoming Your Best, Happiest Self

Lying has a myriad of bad consequences, but for this post I want to focus on how it undermines your personal growth.

I thought a depiction of two hypothetical mens’ lives would provide a nice demonstration of how dangerous lying really is.

Meet Bob

Most people consider Bob a good guy.

He’s friendly, has a good job, and never has a potty mouth in front of his elders.

But what no one knows about Bob is that he lies a lot.

His lies are almost always about seemingly trivial things. This is why people are unaware of this tendency and still think he’s a good dude.

In addition to lying to others, Bob also lies to himself about why he doesn’t have the relationships, professional success, and health he desires for his life.

In the comfort of his thoughts, Bob blames the fact that he’s been dealt a worse hand for his good, but less than ideal disposition.

“Things are just naturally easier for others” Bob says.

To be fair, this is true. Bob is not the #1 gifted human on earth.

But deep down Bob knows that he’s gifted enough to change his circumstances…it’d just take a lot of work and discomfort to get the results he wants.

So he’s faced with a decision:

If he’s 100% honest with himself, he’ll have to accept responsibility for his life and do the work to get the results he wants.

If he lies to himself, he can continue blame something else which makes it easier to cope with reality and avoid the necessary hard work and discomfort to get the relationships, success, and everything else he wants.

Bob chooses to continue to lie. This is actually a very easy choice that he doesn’t even think about.

Easy? How the heck can that be?

Well, because Bob already lies regularly to others and himself, feeding his brain this belief comes naturally at this point.

Bob stays the same, nothing bad happens, and he continues to live a quiet life of desperation.

Meet Mike

Mike is Bob’s friend and frat brother from college.

In his junior year, Mike read a book that made him realize that most things were possible if you could just push through the discomfort phase which is where most others stop.

When Mike discovered this he started pursuing the things he wanted for his life with zeal. In the process, he naturally became more self-aware and honest with himself.

The root of his self-awareness was that all of life’s skills could be learned and delights acquired if he was willing to do the work.

Often this meant working on himself and beliefs instead of a tangible object or hobby.

Eventually 100% honesty extended beyond himself and permeated all Mike’s interactions. He never lied to anyone, ever. To his surprise, this eventually felt much more natural than lying.

Making this switch to total honesty was much easier for Mike than Bob because he was already so honest with himself. He’d built an internal proclivity for truth that facilitated the external manifestation of unwavering honesty.

And the coolest part was that crazy things happened started happening to Mike when he began living so honestly:

  1. He became a better person.
  2. He became more confident.
  3. He became more self-aware and motivated to make changes.
  4. He became happier and less stressed out.

People started asking Mike what he was eating for breakfast!?

self-aware

He’d always chuckle at this question and say his first meal starts at 2pm because he adopted intermittent fasting. Obvi.

How And Why Does 100% Honesty Make Your Life More Awesome?

Though the caricatures of Bob and Mike are hypothetical, the effects that lying had on their lives mirror reality.

Here’s why being 100% honest at all times is so powerful for personal growth.

Accountability To Live A Life That Makes Momma Proud

When you commit to never lying you become much more accountable for your actions.

You don’t do things you’d be embarrassed or ashamed of because you know you need to take ownership of them.

There is no easy fix for something you’re not proud of. You can’t lie remember!

The only way to avoid shame is by living a life you feel comfortable sharing with everyone.

You Become More Confident

Confidence is about being comfortable with who you are even in your most vulnerable states…and developing true comfort with yourself requires cutting lies out of your life.

Why?

It is next to impossible to be 100% comfortable with who you are if your words do not mirror reality. When there’s an incongruence between the truth and what you say, you’re subconsciously signaling to yourself that you’re uncomfortable with your reality.

If you were comfortable, why would you be lying? 

If you strive to reach the greatest levels of comfort with yourself and become supremely confident, complete honesty must permeate your life at all times.

Become More Self-Aware

When you lie out of convenience you’re usually avoiding something. This could be potential rejection or taking action on something you don’t want to do. In all cases, you’re postponing or sidestepping reality.

Developing a habit of lying to postpone or shield ourselves from reality eventually makes reality harder to see. Our brains default to a falsehood that portrays a more comfortable version of our lives. As a result, we develop a disposition of diminished self-awareness.

Lack of self-awareness is terrible for self improvement because we need to first identify the realities we’d like to alter before we can take the steps to actualize the change…

Conversely, when you never lie, you constantly have to accept responsibility for reality. This inspires incredible self-awareness and a greater propensity to “lean into the truth.

Again, cognizance of reality is key for motivating our desires to change.

Oh. And You’ll Be Happier

When you’re 100% honest at all times, you never have anything to hide. This is huge.

There’s no chance of “being found out” and life feels lighter due to the absence of having to uphold a fabricated reality.

You’ll have less stress and be a happier clam. Trust me ; )

But What About Santa?

Are there some instances where we’re better people when we lie?

For example, telling white lies to avoid hurting someone else’s feelings?

What about Santa? Should we tell our kids that Santa isn’t real?

Santa Working On His Tan In Rio

Santa Working On His Tan In Rio

So far I’m going to try for 100% honesty for everything but talking about Santa. I’m sure there are a few other situational instances that might make moral sense that I can’t think of right now…but just because these extreme scenarios exist, doesn’t mean I should re-architect my philosophy because 99.9% of the time not lying is the better option. That seems more like a move to rationalize what’s easier and typically more advantageous for me instead of striving for what’s best, even if it means taking some hits along the way.

The bottom line is the long-term costs of situational honesty or baby lies are just too high.

The truth is hard and it hurts, but are we really doing everyone a favor by masking it?

In most cases, there are ways to exercise finesse in how you communicate so that it burns less or not at all.

And being 100% honest doesn’t mean injecting your feelings or beliefs on everyone all the time. It just means when you open your mouth what you say is true. Many times when I have a belief that might hurt someone that does not need to be stated, I’ll just keep it to myself because I don’t want to make someone else feel bad. But if someone asks me something that requires a response, you better believe I’m holding my ground and telling the truth.

Also, for instances that relate to ourselves, I’d challenge people who are weary of flying the 100% honesty flag if the instances that their worried about are a product of their own behavior?

The harsh reality might not be so harsh if you acted differently beforehand because you knew you couldn’t lie. 

 

After 4 months of raw honesty, I’ve noticed an incredibly positive effect on how I conduct myself, my confidence, self-awareness, and proclivity to hunt the truth.

Don’t get me wrong, it has been painful at times and I’ve definitely turned some people off in the process.

But the benefits for myself and the people in my life that I care about have far outweighed any pain I’ve endured.

This is my case for cutting lies from our lives. And yes, this means even the baby one’s we use for convenience!

I genuinely believe doing this will help us become the greatest, happiest version of ourselves.

 

Have you ever exercised radical honesty? What happened?  

The most thoughtful comment will get my Sleep Hacking, Gmail Productivity, Make $$ Online (private) or Break Into Biz Dev Course for free.

If you’re curious how this approach might affect your own life, I encourage you to make a goal of never lying for 1 month to see what happens…and let me know if you do!

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76 comments, add to the conversation.

    1. Kevin Espiritu

      Zach, the Sam Harris article is awesome, thanks for sharing that. Scott, awesome article as well. Going to keep track of how often I catch myself lying to myself for the next 5 days.

      Reply

  1. Matt

    It’s interesting that you find that your most frequent lies are ones of convenience. For me, my most frequent lies are those that are there to protect my ego or prop myself up in the eyes of others. Making my business to be out to be bigger than it is, saying I worked a little harder than I actually did, etc.

    This is trying to cheat congruence, fool myself and others into thinking I’m someone I haven’t earned the right to be. Not only is ist completely damaging to both self-esteem and personal growth, it’s also extremely inconvenient in the long term. Keeping up all these little lies can add up. You tell your mom you went to the doctors office, she asks if you’re ok, you say yes. Then you find out you’re not ok, so you invent a lie that you caught something else, then she asks if you need help with the medical bills, etc. Eventually you’re putting up extra effort to hold up this one tiny lie, and not only is it inconveniencing you, but eventually the truth will surface and hurt your relationship, if only a little.

    This will definitely be my experiment for the month of January.

    Reply

    1. Post Author Scott

      Good points. Lies perpetuate lies and as you noted, upholding this fabricated reality is draining.

      Definitely let me know how it goes on Feb 1 and don’t give up early on. It gets easier as you be accustomed to 100% truth.

      Reply

  2. Charlie

    Love it! Also, one other benefit: people can trust you to the ends of the earth. Trying to convince people you aren’t lying in one instance (“no honey, I swear I was just out with the boys!”) is way harder than telling them you never lie

    Reply

  3. Andrew Kobylarz

    What’s crazy about this . . . and I notice this about myself and a lot of my friends is that those “little lies” becomes an actualization.

    “I can’t do this or that” eventually translates into reality. Better to acknolwedge and figure out how to improve.

    Haven’t gone to the full extent that you did Scott, but needless to say I’m convinced that I might have to experiment!

    Reply

    1. Post Author Scott

      I’ve found this to be true in my life too. Sometimes the fabricated reality manifests itself because it’s too hard to hold up both what’s true and what you tell others to be true.

      Definitely let me know if you try to experiment with this!

      Reply

  4. Darius

    I’m actually mid-writing about how honesty affects business as well – I’m a fan. I’ve been trying to cut out the white lies as well, and doing a better job. Like you, I still catch myself from time-to-time, but I feel much more free having done so.

    Reply

    1. Post Author Scott

      I’ve found business to be one of the most DANGEROUS places to be dishonest. If you just set honest expectations at the beginning and are always transparent you might lose a few in the short run, but will gain far more in the long run and have less headaches…at least in my experience

      Reply

  5. Ella

    I HAVE taken to not lying at times more so because I know I can’t back it up. For example in business I’ve stopped trying to impress people with getting things done faster and just being honest with my timeline and my time. No one has cussed me out yet. Also, someone called after I lost my blogging job and asked if I needed anything. My instinct…NOPE. I’M GOOD. Then I just busted out the honesty and now I work for them and they are my mentor. The more you do it the better you become at it (honesty). You do become more confident and you like yourself better.

    I’ve always wondered why when we wake from sleep we always tell people we weren’t asleep. Does that mean lying is inherent?

    Great post.

    Reply

    1. Post Author Scott

      Ella – thanks so much for sharing your personal story. It’s fricken awesome.

      You bring up a great point in that I think a lot of us just assume people know how to help us when in reality they don’t. We often get in our own way by being dishonest or just shy about the truth to protect ourselves…when in reality we’re holding back opportunities from coming our way!

      I’ve never thought about the sleep one. I think we have a tendency to want to assimilate to others’ behavior (herd-like mentality). I can see where that desire given that the other person is awake and if we perceived sleep to appear weak, might prompt us to react that way.

      Reply

  6. Scott Krukowski

    Scott, very cool to “catch up” with you as I scouted your site and see if you packed up and headed to Rio. I’m at a similar point and finalizing where I want to spend my 100k airline miles. I’ve been engaged with a total honesty practice for a while now (although there still are plenty of unconscious slip-ups)to the point where just the other week I texted a friend a week after I told a convenient / white lie to them to essentially tell him that I actually had not done what I said I had and offer my real reason. At first they had no idea what I was talking about (because a good 7 – 10 days had passed) and then afterwards they respected the honesty and appreciated the situation.

    Practicing this behavior in a world that loves to sugarcoat the truth will cause some alienation. However, if I ask myself do I want to have friendships and romantic relationships that are founded on truth, integrity, honesty, vulnerability and acceptance or founded on self-convenience, fear, and anxiety of exposing my true self and beliefs – the answer is always the former.

    And if business opportunities or relationships fizzle because of such honesty, then the opportunity likely is not something that would serve me well anyway.

    Reply

    1. Post Author Scott

      Hey bro! Great to hear from you.

      I cannot agree more with your outlook. If the goal in life is to be friends with everybody and anybody, than yes, honesty is a crappy way to do that. But if you’re looking to have deep relationships founded on all the things you mentioned, I think honesty is the way to go!

      Reply

  7. Max Mendoza

    Scott – Incredibly well timed post new friend.

    I have recently had some coaching work done for me around the related topic of authenticity. When it first came up I wasn’t sure how to react to it, the thought that I had been a fraud with the image I projected to the public was a deep pain to welcome.

    I realized that I had been wearing a mask for a large part of my life with the intention of portraying an image that others would most appreciate & accept. For me this image was of “Max the Rockstar Adventurer”. Which in many ways was an expression of who I was, though I knew that I often became a victim to portraying that story rather than just being who I truly was.

    This poem helped me understand what was happening and may relate with your or some of your readers:

    _______

    MASKS by Shel Silverstein
    (The picture on the page depicts two kids walking past each other, wearing VERY large masks that extend a long way above their heads.)
    She had blue skin.
    And so did he.
    He kept it hid
    And so did she.
    They searched for blue
    Their whole life through,
    Then passed right by –
    And never knew.
    ______

    After this awareness I have gone through the challenging feat of bring radical authenticity into the relationships I most care about. Telling them how I have not been honest & how it has impacted our relationship. It has been one of the hardest things I have ever done & am currently still working on.

    The best part though is ending the conversation by telling them that I am now wanting to create from a new possibility of true authenticity with our relationship and inviting them to join me in that. You game too?

    Reply

    1. Post Author Scott

      Thanks for sharing your personal story. It’s really cool that you’re taking so a pro-active approach to becoming more authentic and vulnerable.

      Shel Silverstein is awesome. I used to love Falling Up and Where the Sidewalk Ends

      Reply

  8. Kevin P.

    Hi Scott,

    Great article – very inspiring and a good reminder to push past the apparent ease and convenience of little white lies. Question: you mentioned a book that “Mike” read that made him realize the potential for success in pushing through the discomfort plateau. Were you were referring to a specific book, or just something hypothetical for the purpose of the story?

    Reply

    1. Post Author Scott

      I was referring to something hypothetical, but there is a definitely book that made me realize that we could change our behaviors and alter the way which we experienced reality in college. This pushed me from a fixed mindset (this is what I got) to a growth mindset (I can get anything if I do the work). If interested in the book, email me at Scott at life-longlearner.com

      Reply

  9. Sarah

    I’m wondering how far your honesty extends. If, for example, someone asks you if you had a great day and you did–do you say, “Yes, I did! Thanks!” Or do you always have to tell the person why you had a great day–even if they didn’t ask? Because I’ve had someone tell me that they had to be 100% honest all the time (which I think is great in theory), which included telling me every time they’d had sex or a date or what they ate, even if I hadn’t specifically asked. And I think that was more than I needed to know.

    Reply

    1. Post Author Scott

      Honesty doesn’t always need an explanation. I find the explanation is most useful when your response is controversial or unexpected. If I had a great day, I’d say “yeah, today’s been awesome.” If I didn’t and voiced that which is contrary to popular behavior atleast amongst strangers, I’d probably be more likely to respond that it’s been a tough day with a little color on why.

      I think the difference between the person your describing and my mindset is that I don’t intentionally inject my honest opinions and feelings on someone when they’re not additive or necessary to the conversation. An example would be for a belief that hurts someone’s feelings that isn’t necessary to state. If I possess this, I’d likely keep it to myself unless they asked me a question that required a direct response.

      Reply

  10. Jonas

    Lying to your kids about Santa is still lying. Get over it and tell the truth. The joy of Christmas does not rely on a lie.

    Reply

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  12. Daniel F Lopes

    Hi there Scott!

    I also agree with you: being more transparent about ourselves is necessary in case we want to grow and become happier.

    Being transparent about ourselves let us:
    - Become more tolerant
    When people start exposing things that once were hidden – like your party photos on facebook, where you’re you spending your time on (like on watching movies or travelling), or your sexuality – you create a new normal. Actually, that was normal – you always did that but you tried to hide it since you wanted to seem normal to other people. And since everyone did the same, this created a fictitious bubble, where no one was really authentic.
    Fortunately, these things have been changing tremendously in the past few years. People are being more themselves now.

    – Better focus on what matters
    By being more transparent, you can stop wasting brain energy on hiding things. There are some studies that show that employees that work in a transparent workplace and who are encouraged to be themselves are happier and more productive.

    - Be healthier
    Keeping to yourself things like, the fact you’re pregnant, you have cancer, you’re gay, or that you love someone, it’s bad for your health. When you’re under this circumstances your body is under stress. The kind of the stress that appears when you see a lion – fight or flight! But, the problem is that you aren’t in the jungle, and this stress instead of lasting minutes, it can last weeks, months or years.
    Your body can’t handle that much adrenaline and cortisol, leading to sadness and diseases!
    Don’t keep those things to yourself!

    - It’s a mean to a better world. For obvious reasons.
    Do I really need to explain this? Can you look around a see how many of the conflicts of our society come from constant lying? Can you see where all the distrust that people feel for their leaders and governments comes from?
    Those leaders, specially, need to embrace this if they want to gain back trust – politics is passing a phase of constant suspicion, which doesn’t help solving world problems.

    - Better connect with each other
    Sharing things about ourselves is a big factor behind how we connect with each other, how we create report and empathy. Actually, you already said several times here that showing vulnerability can be good to strengthen a relationship. And that’s damn right!

    But, what a lot of people don’t know is how huge this impacts our personal growth!
    By sharing more about ourselves and by asking people to tell what they think about us, will make us understand ourselves much better – we will know better our strengths and faults, resulting in bigger awareness. And, you know how awareness is critical for personal growth!

    - For all the other reasons you have said in your post :)

    But beware! I believe that we shouldn’t be radically transparent in situations that will hurt other people’s feelings. That’s the golden rule for me!
    Plus, I have to also tell you that, actually telling some white lies make you more likeable. But I’m trying to use them just in extreme cases.

    ***

    This is a topic that really interests me, and about which I have researched a lot. Actually I have written a post on this, backed with some scientific knowledge. (I haven’t published it yet, though.)

    And, because I believe so much in this, in the past year I have been incrementally implementing this in my life. For example, I have came out of the closet to my closest family and friends, and I have made my Values, Beliefs and Rules I Try To Live By public (see here: http://danielflopes.com/public-self-being-transparent-about-our-core-values-and-beliefs/ ). This helps people better understand me and give me more feedback. Plus, it makes me feel more authentic and a person with integrity – aligning who I am with what I do is my ultimate goal!

    Boy… I could go on this… But that’s enough for now.
    Sorry for this big piece of text. But I hope it ads value.

    Cheers!

    Reply

  13. Grant Weherley

    Hey Scott,

    I’ve frequently thought about running a similar experiment ever since I read an interview with the psychologist (I think) who came up with the original concept – he was pretty hilarious, and took it several steps farther. There are so many reasons it’s easy to avoid doing what you did though.

    Your texting a girl you’re interested, she asks you what you are doing, and you must then reply “trying to sleep with you!” I’m actually generally a very honest person, and am known for being quite blunt, and I have run into SO many hairy situations by being honest. I’ve had tons of people get really upset just by being open, and in fact people who are very closed off often react with confusion and hostility…but there’s a huge flip side that you’ve touched on. Good people can EASILY sense when you are being an open, genuine person, and this in turn has created so many relationships and opportunities. In my experience, by being 100% honest you can go from pissing people off right and left to forging genuine connections with the next person you meet instantly, people that tell you that you’re “not like other people” because you aren’t closed off like most people are.

    And now that I think about it, I’d rather have that social roller coaster ride any day of the week instead of the protected, “safe” version where you anger no one but also connect with no one.

    Cheers mate,
    Grant

    Reply

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  19. Adam

    I read your article and agree with you wholesale about the 100% truth and honesty concept. I haven’t told a baby lie as you call them in a very long time. As well as big lies. They always got me in trouble with the people I care about and hurt feelings. When I stopped lying all the time I felt very awkward and was always worried about my friends and family hating me for being honest with them. Even my girlfriend “does this dress make me look fat” sort of deal. It was nerve racking, and at the time I was on pins and needles thinking everyone I knew would disown me. Turns out more people appreciate honestly then not. And I can tell you it’s not easy. My girlfriends mom only cares about what she thinks and what spews out of her mouth incessantly. Frequently ignorant stupid stuff. And I frequently get into NASTY arguments with her because she does not like what I have to say. I tell her to stop asking then. Anyway, I think that telling the honest to goodness truth takes a massive weight off your shoulders, it lends credibility to anything you y say, and people generally appreciate it.

    Reply

    1. Post Author Scott

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful response. I can totally empathize with feeling like there’s less weight in my life…it’s a great feeling!

      Reply

  20. Patrick Pham

    Scott,

    Very inspiring. Just want to share with you my experience on this matter:

    I had never thought about it ( lying). I just did it (lying. Most of it is convenient lying; never intent to hurt anyone) like it’s a part of living. Almost 10 years ago, I attended a meditation course teaching by Goenkaji. Meditating and living a life guided by Buddha teaching is an essential core of our family life now. In our daily life, our conduct is guided by 5 precepts . One of it is: Abstain from lying. One of the tool to help us to maintain absolutely no lying is silence. During the courses all participants must remain absolutely silence. We call it Noble Silence. If you not talking, the chance that you lying is zero. In the real world, we minimize that chance by reducing our talking to minimum. I can tell you now that our life is much more happier than ever before . It’s not an easier task. It requires an acute awareness which can only be attained by meditation.

    Thanks for sharing your idea and your experience

    May you be happy

    Reply

    1. Post Author Scott

      Great point. I think it’s a whole lot easier to remain 100% honest when we’re more prone to filling space with silence and pensiveness before we speak.

      Reply

  21. sammy

    so, this whole article is all about how NEVER lying is the key to greatness, but oh, lie to your kids about santa, that’s the only acceptable lie. At one fell swoop, the author negates everything they’re saying. Either don’t lie about anything and prove your point, or shut up and lie about stuff you think you should lie about.

    Reply

  22. Vincent

    It’s funny, I started doing this about a year ago and the result is that people stopped trusting me entirely. They would say that I had some ulterior motive in being honest. For the sake of honesty, though, that’s true; I decided to live a more honest life for the benefit of my personal wellbeing.

    Reply

    1. Post Author Scott

      Interesting. I can’t say I’ve had a negative effect in how people have trusted me. My friends who have been 100% honest much longer have indicated that people actually trust them much more now. I guess ultimately the response you get is an external factor based on the individual you interact with…

      Reply

    2. JKH

      Don’t forget that people project what they would do, or be doing, in similar circumstances. If what you say is true, and not just a mistaken impression, it sounds like you have some untrustworthy friends who would only be honest if given ulterior motives.

      Reply

  23. Luna

    I have a bad habit of lying, i have been telling not only baby lies, but big HUGE lies. Some lies have gone too far until that limit when i can’t fix them…without loosing my friends and other peoples trust.
    I am too ashamed to get help, i have tried to stop, i am lost.

    Reply

    1. Post Author Scott

      Everyday is a new day and new chance for a clean slate. Working out of the challenges we create by previous lies is tough when you decide to switch to honesty, but it does get easier till eventually there’s total congruence

      Reply

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  26. David Smith

    Not lying also does not mean having to respond and hurt others. One can simply say “I’d rather not answer.” One must avoid the pitfall of trying to be more virtuous than thou.

    Reply

  27. Pieter Mioch

    yes and no
    * the need you feel to explain youself and be honest does not mean that you have to always be there with ur version of the truth
    * nobody can be 100% truthful about anything, you are not god, you do not know everything there is to know, will you keep on blabbering about honesty after you have realized that you often do not exactly know what you are talking about, what you feel? Be honest in your ignorance, which often times means to shut up and listen.
    * just try to be a decent person, what exactly that means is often surprisingly simple but in (western) society sometimes overlooked because of the imagined need to tell people what you are, what you feel and how honest you can be, oh wait, that’s a kind of what I’m doing h…
    * be a decent person

    Reply

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  29. Scotty

    While I agree with this in principle, and do my best to be “honest in my dealings with my fellow man”, I feel that pure honesty, as some describe it, can be detrimental to relationships. Some things you can be totally honest about…did you do this/that/or the other. Other things are more nebulous and I’ve seen many people simply be jerks in the name of honesty. In many situations regarding other people’s feelings and lives, we are asked to give opinions. “does this dress/suit make me look fat” as a very simplistic example. Blunt honesty, the answer is Yes…or No, it’s your fat that makes you look fat.

    People forget that in many cases, there is more than one “truth”. In many cases the truth that we tell is simply how we feel at the moment or our view on the day.

    Blunt Honesty is a definite form of selfishness. It is assuming that your world view is correct and that your feelings (at the time) are more important than others.

    Reply

    1. Post Author Scott

      This is definitely a really interesting thought and I appreciate you sharing it. I still haven’t found the best way to deal with such direct questions that jeopardize someone’s feelings. I usually try to respond with something indirect – i.e. does this make me look fat – “My favorite look is when you wear x” I’m not sure how to better approach this

      Reply

  30. Herb

    I guess I’ve been doing the opposite. I’ve looked at that places in my life where I deliberately lie and check my motivations. Most times it is out of laziness or spare feelings. Some are downright deceits because I don’t want to face the possible consequences. I am honest with myself on that point. However, I think a distinction needs to be made. There is a difference between “being totally honest” and “not telling a lie”. Saying that Santa delivers Christmas presents to all the good little boys and girls is a lie. However, there are also lies of omission. That is not telling the whole truth. When I came home late I might mention that I had to stop and get gas (the truth) but I fail to mention that I also stopped to get a drink. It may have been stopping to get the drink that actually made me late but the stopping for gas was still true. Lies of omission seem to be very common among men. One of my favorite podcasters likes to say, “it’s a relationship not a deposition”. So you don’t have tell absolutely everything in every instance. So for the example of people texting and asking “what are you doing,” just like the “how are you doing,” in face to face conversation, are they rally asking for all the details or are they checking to make sure they aren’t interrupting you? If you just came out of the bathroom, do you really need to tell them the details of the event? Do you even need to share that fact? “Just chillin’,” seems to cover it pretty well. I also see some very gross cherry picking here. So you won’t tell a child the truth about Santa but you will tell a woman that you don’t like her hair style or her dress? Will you also tell a woman that “you just not that into her?” Do you interrupt and tell a friend, “that story is really boring (as it was the first 10 times you told it)”? Do you really say to people who ask , “isn’t she cute”, “no that baby (dog, cat, etc) is actually quite homely.”? When someone dies and people say they are in a better place or a child asks “are they in heaven” what is your response? What is THE truth? As you said things don’t always need to shared just because their your opinion, but how about when asked? You know, I’ve been told that in China a conversation is actually an opportunity for you to agree with me. I think many of our American conversations also take on this air. Before I can sign off on this total honesty policy, I really need to see more examples (which I noticed lacking in the article).

    Reply

  31. Amy

    I honestly don’t think it is possible to omit lying completely. I work in long term care. I absolutely do not have the ability or desire, to tell a resident with dementia that their husband/wife has died 20+times. Forcing them to relive one of the most painful memories of their lives. I agree we should all try as a whole to lie less in life, and yes, seek self awareness, but, I don’t think it is the only path to reach a higher understanding of ourselves.

    Reply

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  35. Colin

    I used to be in the public service. I hated job interviews because it wasn’t my nature to bullshit, unlike nearly all the other candidates, so I didn’t get the promotions I deserved.
    I remember my niece getting into trouble for lying to her parents. They said she was always getting into trouble for lying. I told her I was always getting into trouble for telling the truth. People can’t handle the truth. If you don’t like the truth don’t ask me a question. i have since learnt to lie a little bit. That is called tact. I suppose I am between 95 to 97.5% honest, but always considered myself to be the most honest person I know. Of course if you ask me nosy questions that are none of your business I might lie to you, even look you in the eye while doing so.
    I once read a description of Stalin. They said he liked to drag out the truth, no matter how painful it was. I liked the image it evoked, what I call the Stalinist method. I just imagine the KGB knocking on a door in the wee hours and dragging out Truth, kicking and screaming.
    But on a related note, can you imagine if nobody could keep a secret? People would not be able to get up to skullduggery, theft, manipulation of others to increase their power, and every other type of undesirable behaviour without being discovered. Maybe one day we may get this if everybody’s minds are linked by computer.

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  37. JKH

    Though moral dilemmas (as alluded to in the article) make it impossible to do 100%, attainment of truthfulness is a worthy aim. Besides the benefits mentioned, it eliminates a lot of inner conflict and confusion, and simplifies one’s life and psyche. Socially, the benefits of trustworthiness pay off in trust, which generates real, tangible payout.

    Along with the ideal of truthfulness, a corollary needs to be recognized: You don’t owe anyone any explanations. When you overcome the need to explain, much of the initial urge to lie vanishes.

    The foundation of morality is to have done, once and for all, with lying.
    - Thomas Henry Huxley (protege of Charles Darwin)

    Janitors have to explain themselves. Vice Presidents don’t.
    - Steve Jobs

    Reply

  38. Timothy Kenny

    I’ve noticed an important difference between intellectual honesty and emotional honesty. The stress comes more from the latter because you have to fake the emotion you are feeling to hide the truth. Most people tend to focus on intellectual/logical honesty when they start doing this but I think that’s the less important aspect of radical honesty.

    A lot of people put off being honest because they think it’s all about telling people all their secrets. While that is part of it, the more important part is being honest about what you feel in the moment.

    Some one brought up above what they should do if someone asks them an innocent question and they don’t want to talk about the fact that they had sex last night. The emotional truth is that the person is just making conversation and wants to connect. It’s not really about the logical truth of exactly what you did yesterday or whatever. And if you are annoyed with the person for asking a personal question just express that…you don’t have to answer every question anybody asks.

    One of the benefits of being radically emotionally honest is that you get comfortable having small confrontations with people and you realize that these things blow over and aren’t a huge deal unless you let the fester and build up over time by not expressing what you feel. Most people are way too afraid of having these small confrontations and it really limits them.

    Great post…looking forward to your 2014 goals one,

    Timothy

    Reply

  39. Post Author Scott

    I 150% agree and thanks so much for pointing this out to everyone. In general, having uncomfortable conversations is vital for growth whether that means telling the truth, approaching a stranger or asking your boss for a raise.

    Thanks Timothy!

    Reply

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  41. Pooja

    Bravo on the 4-month no-lying period! :) I agree with your points, well almost.

    The problem arises when you want to be honest but “society” tells you it is not appropriate to be honest in such and such situations.

    Imagine you have a BFF who is upset over his breakup and holding on to the sad feelings. After being patiently there for him for a month, you’re sick and tired of his hang ups. You want him to face the truth. It’s over. There’s nothing left to expect.

    In that situation, what’d you do? Would you follow the conventional, patient listener pattern or would you snap and shake him out of their imaginary world?

    Or, let’s take the flip side. You have grown to dislike someone in your office or social circle. You start avoiding them at lunch. They ask, but you make something up. How long can you go on lying like this? How long until you blurt out, “Well it’s because you’re too irritating when you chew your food”. Or “you’re no longer a vegan”. Or whatever.

    It’s like a double-edged sword. You have to weigh in the pros and cons — which makes being 100% honest almost impossible.

    I think it’s easy to commit to honesty and still not do it 100% of the times. Partial commitment.

    You said that honesty makes you happy + confident. Again, taking the scenarios above, if you were 100% honest all the times, I am genuinely curious how that’d make you happy (or confident) after being blunt with someone.

    Pooja

    Reply

  42. Post Author Scott

    A big part of happiness for me is maintaining my code of conduct and being the type of man I say I’m going to be. This is actually more important for my happiness than dealing with the repercussions of honesty. If I lied and not had to deal with confrontation or potentially some awkwardness that’d be less happy because I know I wasn’t being the type of man I want to be. That’s just for me personally

    Reply

  43. Joshua Katzele

    Scott,
    I have been living in lies for the better part of my entire life. I have a history of drug abuse, self sabotage, living life as a victim of cirumstance, and I recently was separated from my wife because of an extra maritial affair. Something has to change in my life. The worst part is, that i have no idea where to begin. It has been suggested to me, that when I read stuff like your post, that I find ALL the instances where things apply to me, then write them down in as honest a fashion as I can. This is a long ass road I am beginning to walk. I am 31 years old and I have NEVER taken responsibility for my life… Until now. I dont even think I am doing it right. Doesn’t matter. My goal today is to be 100% honest, and take a look at how my decisions have affected the lives of those that I love, and figure out how to not repeat those mistakes TODAY. Tomorrow will have its own set of issues, and I can’t change yesterday. My job is to live the BEST most honest Josh I can today, and if I do that for enough days in a row, my hope is to actually live a life I can be proud of. Keep up the good work. Thanks

    Reply

  44. Post Author Scott

    Wow Josh, thanks for having the courage to share your testimony. It’s awesome and the first step is making a decision. Shoot me an email at scott (at) life-longlearner.com. I want to send you something

    Reply

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