Chapter 17 actually says some great things about leadership and humility and empowerment, you should definitely read it. However, a strange thing can happen when you read insightful texts, sometimes something oblique speaks to you. A single line did that to me today, so join me on a tangent!
If you don’t trust the people,
you make them untrustworthy.
I’m sure in the context of leadership and governance this speaks to empowering the populace (and how to avoid revolutions for that matter). But what tickles my brain is the idea YOUR lack of trust can make other people untrustworthy.
No one exists in isolation, who we are is inherently reflected in how we relate to the people around us, and what I find heartbreaking about lying isn’t the falsehood, it’s the failure of trust. When you lie (even the little white ones), you don’t protect yourself from somebody’s negative reaction so much as you fail to give them a chance to see you for who you are, what you want and need and value. They might disappoint you, but they might not, you won’t know till you risk.
I was watching 30 Rock last night, Tracy was telling Liz about goodbyes, how he didn’t know how to do them, and they discussed the shallow bullshit ways people often say them. Liz, instead of saying: “We’ll stay in touch.” said, with honesty, something along the lines of: “Tracy, we’re only friends because we work together, and for years you have made my life a living hell, but because the head isn’t connected to the heart, I love you and I’ll miss you.”
Now isn’t that a more loving and sincere thing to say than to just hit them with the classic white lie? She’s honest about her opinions of Tracy, honest about the fact the friendship end when the job ends, and yet, Tracy knows Liz sees their relationship for what is it, and isn’t hit with a disappointment later when the don’t stay in touch.
When you don’t trust people enough to tell them what you really think (with some TACK though please! Less: you look fat in those jeans, more: hmm, maybe not a good cut for you) you lose out on them understanding you, understanding what you need, how you see the world. Inevitably, because of that lack of knowledge and understanding, they misunderstand you, disappoint you, and don’t offer what you need.
The truth will set you free …but first it will piss you off – a Gloria Steinem quote, and one of my favourites. Sure, sometimes the truth starts uncomfortable conversations, but without those conversations we never get to a point of understanding each other. Without a foundation of honesty we’re all moving through a false world blowing sunshine up each other’s butts. And we all know when it’s happening to us, that sick feeling when you know you’re being bullshitted, but everything continues to be left unsaid.
When you lie you miss out on authentic connections. When you can’t take the risk and trust others, there’s never anyone you can really trust and count on. And that’s a very lonely kind of way to live a life.