I know you mean well and I know you think you have good intentions, but you really need to stop lying to your friends.
Two of my friends recently hosted a corporate fundraiser in order to raise funds and awareness for one of their big events coming up fairly soon. The event is known as The Uprising and is centred around highlighting the state of the mental health of youth across Australia. The fundraiser featured the captain of the Brisbane Broncos, Darius Boyd, who shared his own personal struggles with anxiety and depression. Having lost several male figures in his life, he kept much of his demons to himself, until he finally decided to check himself in to a mental health facility for help.
It was quite humbling to hear from such a prominent figure sharing their inner demons. I have faced similar challenges in my own life, and it was great to hear him talk about how a man in his position needed to find a place where he could just be himself and get real about the things happening in his life.
Which made me think about how many of us go through life with our friends. I have talked to at least a dozen people in just the last 3 days who have told me that they feel lonely and that they don’t have anyone they can talk to. It’s been very strange for me, because these people have been saying it either while they have been in a room with hundreds of other people around them, or after having just spent time away with some of the people their Facebook and Instagram photos say they are “so grateful to do life with”.
When I think about it, there isn’t a contradictory dichotomy at work here. It’s actually a simple, but brutal truth.
Stop lying to your friends.
The truth is that we project an image of ourselves that really isn’t us, we say we’re fine when we really aren’t, and we say we want to be challenged when we really don’t.
Oh sure, you say it isn’t you. Let me show you how it is.
Still trying to fit in
I have some friends who are primary and high school teachers, and very regularly I get to hear about the behaviour of the little 6 year old kids who are all trying to adhere to the latest craze to “be cool”. Whether it’s fidget spinners, the latest video game series, or whether or not their parents will let them set up a Finsta (a fake Instagram account for all you oldies out there), kids are always trying to find a sense of belonging by pretending to be interested in things that they really might not be, and always trying to hide their real and perhaps “lame” interests so no one makes fun of them or kicks them out of the group.
And yet how many years out of school has it been now and you’re still trying to do the same things?
Sure, it’s not fidget spinners, and sure the conversations can be quite pleasant. But why then do you find yourself driving home from a hangout with the people you are supposedly “besties” with, completely drained and feeling like no one really knows you?
Could it be that you’re still just projecting an image of what you think that even the people that willingly call you friend will accept?
Rejection is a terrifying concept. It’s half the reason people run away from romantic relationships – either a past rejection, or the fear of one in the future. But friendships are really no different.
And here’s the thing – you think that’s a good thing. You think it’s good that no one knows that you’re really a Whovian, or that you like playing music for hours, or that the lame movie series you were all paying out before is actually something that really spoke to you. You think that it’s just the way people are that you can’t say what you really think or feel about things for fear of people leaving you. You think it’s normal for you to be friends with someone and leave the conversation feeling like no one knows who you really are.
It’s not normal. It’s not how friendships should be, and the people who call you close are really just loving the shell you put around yourself. No wonder you feel so alone – no one can see the real you! You need to stop lying to your friends.
Still trying to pretend
“I’m well, how are you?”
“Oh life is just so busy, but I’m getting through it”
“Yeah, can’t complain”.
These statements hide so much of the truth that any time I hear them I ask another more pointed question so I can get an actual answer.
How many times have your friends actively pressed you to see how you were going, and you instinctively threw up the defence mechanism of misdirection or shallow answers in order to prevent them from finding out the truth?
Do people know how you’re really doing? Really? Or do you just keep travelling the world, posting filtered snapshots of minuscule moments to your feed, moving from person to person, giving even the friends you’ve known your entire life one word answers? Do you suddenly disappear and then complain that no one knows you’re not doing well?
If no one knows what you’re going through, it’s your own fault.
And it’s a real shame, because all the people you need are already in your life.
Still asking for help you won’t really accept
The final fallacy in friendships I’ve observed recently is that people say they want people in their life who can challenge them, but rarely if ever do they actually enjoy or adhere to the challenge that people have set for them.
I know so many married couples who are always telling me that they are really struggling for the lack of other married couples in their life they can talk about things with. Or young businessmen and businesswomen who tell me they really want an older mentor. Or a BFF they can unpack their life with. Or people of faith that they can be inspired by and help them grow. “Because I really want that”.
And yet guess what? As soon as they’re offered the opportunity, they don’t turn up. They regularly skip out on it because “they’re too busy”. And if they do manage to catch up with that other couple or that mentor, they don’t really “go there” with them. The conversations stay on the surface. The issues discussed are never really in the areas that they’ll go home and either argue about, or cry themselves to sleep about. Because the last time someone called them out on their bad decisions, they got offended and hurt and didn’t want to open up again.
How are we noble in that? We’re not. We’re lonely. We’re scared. We’re lacking answers. We’re empowering our destructive behaviour.
And then when it all goes to hell, when we’ve made mistakes, when we’re struggling and at the end of our rope, we get self entitled and start blaming other people for not being there, when we completely misled them the entire time that they were.
Let’s just call it like it is. We’re lying to our friends. Those white lies don’t feel that bad, but they’re addictive and keep you from getting what you need.
“Well, if they were really my friends, they should try harder and try to find out what’s really going on. They should see through the fact that I’m lying”.
Let me share my observation on the above sentiment. The amount of effort you put in trying to do that for others is about the amount you’re going to see that in your own life. If you’re going out of your way to see through to the heart of the people in your life, you’re going to find that there will be someone somewhere in your life attempting that with you. And if you aren’t, well then, you’re just receiving what others are receiving from you.
What’s that? You don’t really want to put in that much effort with people who aren’t going to tell you the truth? Funny. Your friends feel the same way about you when you don’t tell the truth, either.
So what’s the solution then? How do you move from habitual lying to communication with honesty? It’s simple really.
Speak the truth in love.
Many people who have bad experiences with the truth – about themselves, about their life – have usually had it because they have not spoken in a tone or a posture of love. It’s usually from a position of blame or entitlement, rather than one that perceives others with respect.
If you were to look at the conversations you have had in the last week, what would you rate them on the honesty scale? And you have to be honest about your honesty rating there. Are you complaining, bitter, frustrated with people in your life for only going off the words you’ve been saying?
The truth is people can only hear what you say, not what you mean. We really are much better at lying than we’ll admit.
So if you’re not revealing the truth about who you are, start speaking it out. If you’re not allowing people to know when you’re not doing well, start by saying, “I’m not doing well”. If you’re finding a lack of #RealTalk in your life, get your heart ready to hear it and to seek it out.
And do it in love. Leave the chip on your shoulder at the door. Don’t be demanding or cynical or ready to flare up. You are surrounded by people who love you – make sure you love them by telling them the truth from a place of understanding that reality.
And make sure you love you, too. Beecause you’re worth loving.
How about you? Do you think that you’re lying to your friends? What are some things you reckon get in the way of our honesty?