Growing up in a cult, I was taught from birth that being dishonest was evil and sinful and that god and my mother would punish me for it. I was indoctrinated to believe that I MUST be honest, at all costs. At first glance this might seem like a great thing to teach a child. It’s sold as an excellent moral code, one of those moral codes that ‘good’ people endeavour to live their lives by. Society places a great deal of value on honesty. Or does it?
The reality is that society places a great deal of value on the ‘appearance of honesty’. NOT actual honesty. Society approves it when we pretend to be being honest for what it considers are ‘deserving’ reasons (like not hurting someone’s feelings, or lying to protect ourselves or another), even if it is obvious we are not then adhering to the moral code it espouses to support.
The majority of children are taught that lying is undesirable, sometimes unavoidable, but pretty much, at the very least, understandable. I was not taught that. I was raised to sincerely believe that the repercussions for lying would bring horrible punishments, unbearable guilt and feelings of failure. I was told that people who do lie are being manipulated by the devil. BY THE DEVIL! Not that it wasn’t a good thing to do, not that it was preferable not to, but that it was genuinely evil.
The result is, that as an adult I have always been a terrible liar. Many of my friends have laughed about it over the years. I blush very easily, I sweat, I generally look uncomfortable and uneasy. This is not an asset – in business, in countless social situations, in dangerous situations, even when any sane person would have lied to protect themselves, I have made an appalling mess of trying to lie. It has hindered me socially to an enormous extent. It has held me back with employment constantly. It has broken friendships where I could have demonstrated more humanity. It has penalized me financially. It has been a liability.
The other way in which it still hinders me, is far deeper. When I meet someone new socially, when I’m having a meeting in a work situation, when I’m attending an interview, a medical appointment, having a chat, discussing study options at university, trying to make friends – my default position is that I assume the other person is being honest. My logical brain knows and recognises that this is not so, but that doesn’t stop my default brain from being open and, yes, you’ve guessed it, honest. This has played havoc in all areas of my life. Most particularly because I automatically trust the other person is being honest. And to my detriment. It’s a very difficult, deep-seated indoctrination that is almost impossible to halt.
Before I said something, to anyone, I used to think ‘Is this honest?’. Now before I speak, I try very hard to think ‘Is this kind?’. Not just, is it kind to other people, but am I being kind to myself? I feel this is a more humane and measured approach to try to live by. It is however, a constant guessing game in which I feel I am ‘winging it’ in life.
Childhood indoctrination on any aspect of life, is a terribly harmful and dangerous thing. What are you teaching your children?