The Power of Honesty

I was reading Radical Honesty: Transform Your Life by Telling the Truth. I highlighted this passage:

Manipulation never works to get the result desired, but it always seems like it’s just about to work. When you get what you said you wanted by manipulation, it is never enough. When you tell the truth and get what you want, getting what you want is like gravy — it feels like you are getting more than you ever hoped for, rather than just okay but not quite good enough.

Then coincidentally I was rewatching The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises because the former is on Netflix. The Dark Knight ends with everybody in the story lying. Jim Gordon and Batman lie about Harvey Dent, in order to protect the people of Gotham from knowing that he went from idealistic prosecutor to psychopathic killer. And Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred lies to Bruce about Rachel to protect him from the truth that she chose somebody else before she died.

The moral of the two movies is clear: lying makes everything worse. When The Dark Knight Rises begins, Bruce has become a reclusive shut-in for 8 years, Jim Gordon’s wife and kids have abandoned him, and a criminal much worse than the Joker rises to take control of Gotham.

I believe there is an archetypal truth in these movies, which is one of the reasons they are so popular. In my personal life, I’ve lied either because I was afraid of someone’s reaction or because I thought I had to in order to get what I wanted. The lies were never big, and I usually didn’t realize I was telling them. For example, someone would ask me to do something that I didn’t want to do. I was afraid of their reaction if I said ‘no’, so I went along with it.

To me these lies seemed like no big deal at the time. They were tiny, and I thought I was being nice. But later the other person thinks I like something I don’t, and I’ve set myself up for a future full of activities that cause resentment. If I had just said ‘no’ originally, or at least expressed my distaste for the activity, the other person probably wouldn’t have asked again.

Recently I’ve tried to ground my relationships in the truth. The truth is a terrible thing and can cause a lot of unpleasantness and hurt feelings. But it seems to be better than the alternative.