Is our society built on lies? Why do people lie? Read on to learn how we all are leading a life of lies.
Once upon a time there was a king. Full of vanity and pride, he had an obsession for fine clothes and ornaments. He once announced a reward of one million gold coins to the one who could give him the most extraordinary piece of clothing. Many weavers, tailors and stylists approached him and showed all sorts of apparels — some were studded with precious gems and stones, many had threads of gold, some had extraordinary design but the king was unimpressed. Two swindlers, presenting themselves as weavers from a distant kingdom, bragged about their unearthly sartorial talent.
“We can stitch for you the most remarkable and unimaginable suit that no one else in the world has ever had,” they said.
This got king’s attention. “What’s so special about this suit?”
“Your Majesty, only those who are truthful in their lives and faithful to you will see this dress. Anyone who is dumb or unfit for their position will not see it.”
“Wow! Is that really possible?”
“Yes, Your Excellency, but we have two conditions,” they said, “first, we alone will dress you in private and secondly, we want two million gold coins in return because it’s only once in our lifetime that we can make an outfit like this.”
“Granted!” the king said excitedly.
“We’ll require three weeks to make it.” And they took king’s leave.
“Organize a royal parade in three weeks from now,” he ordered his courtiers, “I want my subjects to see the most expensive and extraordinary dress in the world. Announce it in the state so everyone can be there to see it.”
Exact three weeks later, they came back for an audience with the king. They were holding a bag made from the finest silk. The king took them to his private chamber. He took his clothes off to wear the new outfit. The two charlatans pretended to take out an invisible cloak from their bag and portrayed as if they were clothing the king. Half an hour later, they told him they were done. The king took them back to the royal court where they announced features of the dress and asked loudly if all could see it. The courtiers sang glories of the king and the wonderful suit he was wearing. No one wanted to look stupid, unfaithful or unfit, so they agreed with the fake weavers that the suit indeed was the most impressive they had ever seen.
The king bade the swindlers good-bye with a cartload of gold coins and proceeded with the royal parade. The subjects, like the courtiers, were aghast to see the king stark naked but they dared not utter a word. There was a young child in the crowd though, too young to be diplomatic; he shouted, “Where’s the suit? The emperor is naked. He’s not wearing anything!”
Others also gained some confidence and started muttering. Before long, everyone was saying out loud. The king realized the truth but continued with the royal procession for he didn’t want to look foolish by admitting his mistake.
This story by Hans Christian Andersen so beautifully highlights the greatest truth of our world, that is, the society expects you to lie if you are to fit in. In the name of conforming to norms, you are expected to be diplomatic. Being diplomatic is not just about being tactful, instead, most of the time, it is about tactfully, tastefully, coating the truth with the flavor the listener desires. If a personal acquaintance calls you saying he wants to meet you but you don’t feel like, you are expected to make up some excuse. You are not allowed to say, “I don’t want to see you.” It is somewhat obligatory to lie in the name of being polite. You are more likely to say something like, “Oh, I would love to but I’ve a commitment elsewhere.” and so forth. The funny thing is the other person knows you are not stating the truth but this is what they are happy to hear as opposed to the real truth.
Aba rahima mushkil pari, garhe dou kama,
Sanche se to jag nahin, jhuthe mile na ram.
Oh what a dilemma, says the Sufi saint Raheem, with truth I lose the world and by lying I lose God!
Most people are not living a life but a lie, a blatant lie. While it may not be possible to be brutally truthful at all times, it is feasible to lead a truthful life. Overall. If you pay attention, you will find that half the lies are not needed. Each time you lie, you place upon yourself a subtle burden. I have made it a point in my life to not lie. This has cost me dear as my truths frequently put off many people but I still believe that a life tweaked by truth is better than the one enlivened by lies. It’s a price I am willing to pay. Does it even matter if thousands, hundreds or none know me or like or dislike me. No, it doesn’t. My life isn’t affected by how others perceive me, neither is yours if you see what I mean.
This world is like a stampede. People are going crazy. When you don’t step out, you are either pushed if you accept or crushed if you resist. Quietude is stepping out of such crowd, it is stepping aside. This is self-realization. It is mostly in pointless conversations, useless gossips, that people lie automatically. Some people speak lies, many live lies, some even believe in their own lies; these folks may be materially rich, socially wanted, intellectually evolved, but they mostly remain insecure and restless.
By the way, I hope you are not confusing truth for morality. Truth is neither moral nor immoral. Truth just is. Morality or immorality is your interpretation of the truth. Living the truth is simply accepting your actions and intentions and speaking the truth is stating the way you understand them. If there’s no contradiction in your actions and your statements, you are practicing the truth. And, if your thoughts, actions and words are in harmony, you are living the truth.
Truth, next to only compassion and love, is the only thing I know that unfailingly gives its adopter strength and peace.
Art of Meditation
Free yourself from suffering and live life to the fullest. Learn the yogic technique of meditation in 4 days (and master it over a lifetime)
Are you curious to understand the anatomy of lies a bit more deeply? Below are some spiritual perspectives on the different kinds of lies we tell every day.
Why does my partner lie/cheat compulsively?
Cheating is an abuse of trust, it means you have been taken for granted, for a ride. There is never a reason for cheating, only an excuse. So, here are the top three:
1. Opportunity overrides obligation
2. Lust defeats love
3. Habits die hard
Read more here.
Why do people lie to me and for no reason?
It appears some lie for no reason at all, while many lie with great reasoning, some lie for a cause, and many build a cause to lie. It is not always about the flip side of truth. Sometimes, a lie stands on its own two feet. Upon deep examination, you will find that lying is a complex act, a complicated aspect of one’s personality, it is more than a habit, almost a natural human trait.
Here are the three primary causes of telling lies, they are not mutually exclusive:
1. To hide information
2. A matter of habit
3. To gain attention
Read more on each of these causes here.
Why do people lie? How can one rise above lying and follow the path of truth?
Sympathy is more powerful than truth. Merely knowing and stating the truth is not enough. One must evaluate the five positions of truth and its appropriate time (sixth consideration) before saying it. Once, Prince Abhaya asked Buddha if he ever spoke harsh and disagreeable words. At first, Buddha said there was no categorical yes-or-no answer and thereafter, the Venerable One spoke…
Read more here.
Why do people lie in a marriage/in an intimate relationship? What is the key to everlasting relationships?
Most people enter into a marriage with the intention of making it work, with the hope of deriving joy together, with the goal of being together. The intentions are as noble as the partners themselves. However, why do marriage that looked solid and iconic as the Taj Mahal once come crumbling down like a sandcastle?
Today I bring to you the key to everlasting relationships. My core philosophy that can help you understand relationships better and live the one of your dreams. A good marriage has four pillars, columns of strength and togetherness. The building of any close relationship stands on these four pillars.
So, here they are:
1. The pillar of financial security
2. The pillar of physical security
3. The pillar of emotional security
4. The pillar of moral security
Read more on each of the five positions of truth here.
Why do people lie when I am truthful, and how do I deal with such lies and people?
When it comes to deciding what you ought to do next, wait until you are healed.
Decisions taken in a vulnerable state of mind will haunt you later. Nearly always. And, this leads me to the theme of this post: how do you overcome vulnerability? Or more appropriately, how do you ensure that your experience and the hurt from your past is not shrouding the truth you must see?
Healing is your answer. If you want to heal yourself do it in two parts. First, seek forgiveness for your actions that might have hurt others. Have the courage to say, “I’m sorry because…” and then mean it. A huge weight will come off your shoulders. And second is forgive those who have wronged you.
On how to forgive those who have wronged you – go here.
Why do people lie? What is the price one pays for lying?
There is a story in Mahabharata. The legend goes that Yudhisthria’s chariot used to be a few inches up from the ground because he always spoke the truth. In the enemy camp there was a great warrior and their guru called Dronacharya. Dronacharya’s son’s name was Ashwatthama who was technically an immortal because of a boon he had. Dronacharya was invincible because he loved his son and fought very bravely. Now Krishna knew the only way to get rid of Dronacharya was to somehow annihilate the conviction he had for his son. If he could be convinced that his son was dead then Dronacharya would not fight.
Coincidentally, there was also an elephant in the war named Ashwatthama. The Pandavas killed the elephant and in great jubilation, went to Dronacharya and said that Ashwatthama is dead. Guru Drona is shaken and thinks that the Pandavas might be playing games. He says he will only believe it if it comes from Yudhisthria’s mouth because Yudhisthria never lies. If he says that Ashwatthama is dead, then I will believe it. He summons Yudhisthria and asks if it is true that Ashwatthama is dead. Yudhisthria says yes Ashwatthama, the elephant is dead.
Listen to this discourse by Om Swami to find out more about the price of a lie.