Dishonesty in Relationships

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So we have irresistible iPods, Blackberries equipped with “awesome” ringtones and those devilish Prada purses and shoes that look like they came out of a candy factory. Technology has made us earthlings a contented bunch, thrilled that with a click, push or a tap of the finger, we can now send and receive messages globally. Give it a few more years and ordinary mortals, not just space scientists, will probably be able to get their own “myspace” in the solar system. Want to send me an email? Right.

There’s no limit to human ingenuity.

Remember the bygone days when you could sit back and enjoy a film only in the comfort of your home or in the cinema? Today you can do that while in the subway or in a crowded mall. By flipping open your cell phone, you could order a tune, download a tube and fast forward or reverse a flick.

If we have succeeded in transporting TV into our portable phones, would it also be possible to carry around a miniature lie detector device so we can tell whether our favorite person is lying or is trying to hide a shaded past? Like we said, there’s no limit to genius. We have thousands of Einsteins these days; couldn’t one of them sit down and design one such product? If it was a breeze coming up with those stress cards that color-coded your level of anxiety, why can’t our smart society churn out a pocket-sized mechanism that detects lying so accurately? That way we avoid complicating our lives five years later because we managed to nip any blooming relationships in the bud. And if a friend asks, hey, how come you never married? We can always say, “I was saved by the LD chip.” The what?

Lie detector chip.

Our obsession with honesty – honesty we expect from our partners – is a tad disturbing. But have we looked at ourselves in the mirror lately?

How Much Can We Tolerate?

If we’re honest with ourselves, we should admit that we’ve been dishonest not once but many times. We’d like to think though that there’s a distinction between dishonesty and betrayal. A bit of dishonesty here and there – the classic white lie – does not merit making a mountain out of a molehill. Betrayal, however, is looked upon as more of a serious deviation that leads to a potentially intense confrontation which could end in rupture – divorce.

Nonetheless, just because dishonesty isn’t exactly equal to betrayal does not mean that we should turn a blind eye to dishonesty. Aware of our own weaknesses and shortcomings, we’re willing to let it go. But what if that dishonesty rears its ugly head one time too many? We struggle to be open-minded about the dishonesty of our other half – “oh there must be a reason why he didn’t tell me the truth” – but when we find ourselves forgiving too frequently, our veins begin to pop and our brains begin to transmit error messages.

How much can we tolerate?

The honest answer would depend on – 

  • Your personality
  • His personality
  • The frequency and seriousness of the word or deed
  • Our circumstances

No matter how much of a Christian upbringing we’ve had, our tolerance for dishonesty, whether we like or not, is influenced by our personality traits. Have we experienced dishonesty too often that we’ve grown accustomed to it, do we have this extraordinary capacity to forgive and be broad-minded about the peccadillos of our fellow beings, deciding that whatever it is they said or did isn’t the end of the world?

Take the oft-repeated question: “honey, am I too fat in this dress?” Classic reply: “you look stunning.” Then we remember that he’s a seasoned salesman with the highest sales number in the office so we swear under our breath knowing he’s lying, but we let it pass anyway.

As for the frequency and seriousness of the word or deed – let’s take the # 1 cause of all marital arguments: money. “Did you charge those shoes to VISA?” “Oh no, darling, I paid cash.” Yet, every month, the bills stream in and the debts are never paid.

As far as circumstances are concerned, is the stress in the office short-circuiting our temper at home? Do we tend to magnify petty details because we have an aging parent who’s succombing to Alzheimer’s or a teenager who gets failing marks consistently?

Negative Effects 

Dr. Hal Urban is a writer and educator. In one of the articles he wrote, Honesty is Still the Best Policy, published online in Character Education Lessons, he says dishonesty is a destructive force that should be avoided at all costs. In a nutshell, he says, it affects the quality of life of human beings and hampers them from fulfilling their potential.

The most interesting effect Dr. Urban mentioned is that being dishonest attacks our nervous system. He cited the finding by the Southern Methodist University which reported that the stress involved in the effort to hide the truth wields harm to our central nervous systems. The psychological turmoil elevates our negative stress levels.

Another offshoot of dishonesty is that if repeated over time, it turns us into fakes and manipulators. Dishonesty also closes the door to feeling any sense of emotional enrichment because we constantly live in an ugly web of lies. Dishonesty breeds distrust among spouses and partners and hence ruin our relationships – relationships that could be rewarding had we nurtured them properly.

Even the harmless white lie – the necessary evil – can serve as training ground for bigger lies, transforming our dishonesty into indiscretions and ultimately, betrayal.

There’s this saying about a rolling stone gathering no moss. But as human beings continue to roll in lies, the moss gets bigger and stubbornly sticks likes glue. As Tad Williams said, “We tell lies when we are afraid... afraid of what we don't know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us. But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger.”

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