I’m reading Randy Pausch’s, The Last Lecture and enjoying it. If you don’t know the story, Pausch–a computer science professor, husband, and father of three very young kids–had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was dying. His “Last Lecture” wasn’t about dying, however, but about how to live. Then he wrote a book. It’s a very easy read because it’s broken up into lots of little mini-chapters or sections that are 3 pages or less.
My favorite is on page 163, and it’s entitled simply, “Tell the Truth.”
If I could give three words of advice, they would be “tell the truth.” If I got three more words, I’d add: “All the time.” My parents taught me that “you’re only as good as your word,” and there’s no better way to say it.
This really resonates with me.
I’m going to tell you the truth. I’ve lied. But I honestly can’t remember the last time I did it. And I can’t remember any particular thing that I’ve ever lied about. So the result is that I really don’t have any secrets.
The reason I’m telling you this is not to kick off some rant touting any superiority or comparison or cast some kind of moral judgment. Hell, if you think about it, I could be lying to you this very moment! No, the real reason is to tell you something that I’ve learned and believe is true.
I think living without secrets makes for a very easy life.
I am who I am. I’ve done (and not done) stuff. I’m not proud of everything. I don’t always feel that good about myself, but I’m not trying to breath under water either.
What do I mean by that? Pausch goes on to say,
People lie for a lot of reasons, often because it seems like a way to get what they want with less effort. But like many short-term strategies, it’s ineffective long-term. You run into people again later, and they remember you lied to them. And they tell lots of other people about it. That’s what amazes me about lying. Most people who have told a lie think they got away with it . . .when in fact, they didn’t.”
When someone lies, they’re usually trying to get something or create (or uphold) an image in someone else’s mind. The idea is that that image would dissolve if the truth were known. So when you lie, the bottom line is, you’re trying to be something you are not. This is impossible. And it’s insane. It’s like trying to breath underwater.
You can pretend to breath under water for a while, but you’re really just holding your breath–and you can only do that for so long. Nature ALWAYS wins out. And when it does, despite your effort, depriving your body of oxygen only makes you weaker.
Being a teacher, you can imagine the number of times students have lied to me. Other people have lied to me as well. Probably, you’ve been lied to. I used to be very hurt by that. Especially when it was someone close to me. Even more so, when I took a lie and built part of my life or identity around it or became attached to it because the lie was much easier to live with than the truth.
Yes, lies hurt, but sometimes the truth hurts even more.
What I want to tell you today is that lies don’t hurt me anymore because I’ve come to realize that there isn’t anything anyone could tell me that would change who I am. There isn’t anything anyone can do–past, present, or future–that can effect what I am. If this is true, how can I possibly be hurt?
Of course, in order to learn this, I had to hurt. Talk about irony.
So I guess I’m writing today to tell you two things:
1) Life is easier when you don’t lie. No secrets. No pretending. Less to think about. No water up your nose. And,
2) Don’t worry when you find that someone lied to you. They cannot hurt you. They cannot change who you are. No harm can come to you. Trusting does not make you naive, or ignorant, or stupid, or anything. If you have trusted and you have learned something, use that new knowledge to adjust your expectations and move forward in this present moment.
But wait, are you feeling doubtful? That’s alright. You don’t have to trust me. You need to lay your own course. If, for you, what I’ve said sounds good “in theory”, but runs aground in the real world–before you dismiss this as just so much touchy/feely bullshit (I mean what about Bernie Madoff, right?)–reflect on this:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Still stuck on Bernie Madoff? Okay, I don’t blame you. I never said it was easy. You may find some consolation in remembering also that He said to love everyone–not trust everyone. Be prepared to always realize the difference and let go of any attachments to anyone or anything you might have in this world.
And then be prepared to be free.