Monday, March 25, 2013

Telling the Truth

When I was in high school, I didn't understand why people reacted so strangely when I said that I wasn't going to do something, like go to an event. They seemed to be waiting for an explanation other than the fact that I didn't want to do it.  My mom told me that I should say that I'm busy or something instead of saying that I don't want to go. Now, I've always been against making fake excuses not just because it's dishonest, but because you can get yourself trapped that way. Like, if you tell someone you're not hungry because you don't want the food they've offered you, then what happens when a few seconds later, someone offers you food that you do want? Now you have to miss out on eating something you like because you had to lie about why you didn't eat the food that you didn't like? I saw fictional characters fall into these kinds of traps all the time, and I always thought that they were silly to make up excuses in the first place. 

And then it happened to me. A high school friend invited me to a jewelry party, where a salesperson would give a presentation and then everyone would get to look through the jewelry and buy things. I was not going to go because this didn't sound like fun. My mom said that I couldn't just tell my friend that I didn't want to go - I needed an excuse. I lied and said that I had a family event that day. Then some time later, a closer friend invited me to a just-for-fun party on the same day as the jewelry party - a party that I was definitely going to attend. But now I was in a mess. My two friends having the parties were part of the same group of friends, so my first friend would probably find out that I was at the other party and know that I lied about the family event. I really lucked out in this case - when my second friend realized that her party was on the same date as the jewelry party, she decided not to have it that day. But I felt really stupid for getting into the mess because I always knew that this could happen. I should have just told my first friend that I'm not into product-selling parties. 

But a couple years later, my desire to just say no grew numb. I threw excuses around left and right without thinking twice.  In college, a lot of people would not leave me alone about things until I lied to them with some fake excuse (or even signed up for something with no intention of going), knowing full-well that I would pass by them on campus and they would know that I wasn't telling the truth. People used to complain a lot about other people's stupid excuses for not joining clubs or going to events, but excuses were never the problem. The problem was that our high-pressure, borderline relational bullying college culture forced people to need excuses in order to not do the things that they didn't want to do. If someone says, "I'm going to follow you around and keep poking you until you tell me that you're feeling sick," most of us would say, "I'm feeling sick," to get the other person to leave us alone. If they see later on that you're not sick, they will point out that you lied to them. You did lie, but is that really the problem? Or is the problem that they basically gave you an ultimatum? That they wouldn't leave you alone if you just asked them to?

I don't have a problem with it if my friends aren't interested in the things that I like, if they don't want to join a club that I'm in, or they don't like the type of event that I'm hosting. I wouldn't want my friends to lie to me, or feel like they have to lie. To get back to the original story, the reason I shouldn't have lied about the demo party isn't because it got me into trouble. It's because to me, telling the truth - and being able to tell the truth -is part of being friends.

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