(in the following my original thoughts and polite truths are written in small text—my candor and utter honesty are in large caps and were added to the original)
We all have our "polite lies" and "little white lies" that are our way of saving face, not hurting others and avoiding an awkward moment or two. But some "polite lies" actually lead us into a bit of a fog and I want to clear things up. (NO, WHAT I'M REALLY TALKING ABOUT HERE IS WAY MORE IMPORTANT THAN THAT AND THE BIT OF FOG CAN ACTUALLY GET US INTO A LOT OF TROUBLE).

I remember hearing a sermon about 10 years ago in which the Pastor talked about the need for light not only in foreign lands, but the need for Christians to "share the light of Christ right here in the USA." He invited us to talk to our neighbors, relatives and colleagues about the light of Christ because we all walk in darkness and need that light. As I sat there in the pew, as an ordained clergy person, I was somewhat amused at myself because I thought, "No, I am not going to do that and you are not going to do that and no one else in this church is going to do that either—because not even you, dear thoughtful pastor, will walk up to people and just start talking about something that you know people find embarrassing or intrusive or a major turn-off."

But religious leaders say those things and religious people listen to those things (share Christ with your neighbors) because we apparently think we should and then we can all feel better for the moment (he said the right thing, I heard the right thing), but then we will go on and miss the fact that absolutely nothing was done. (I'M NOW WORRIED THAT YOU THINK ME EITHER TOO RELIGIOUS OR NOT RELIGIOUS ENOUGH. SO……..)

This is actually not a religious point. It's about how we, in all spheres of life, toss off words that sound so right and we can all nod our heads in approval and nothing will get done. It happens with "Yes, we should get together more often" but no one gets out the calendar. It happens with a couple saying "We've got to look at our finances together" and then both go their separate financial ways for five bill paying years.

It is a consensus of lies—a kind of agreement between people to stave off action politely. We all said the right thing, voiced our "proper" intentions, and then there is an unspoken agreement of non-expectation. This is not healthy spirituality.

Healthy anything, including healthy spirituality, has very much to do with right action—which happens most when there is a harmony between word and deed, thought and action. In other words, we all have to watch how we con ourselves with our good sounding words and good sounding intentions.

Michael Phillips said, "The human tendency to think that if you said something you did something is so seductive that I call it elegantly evil." (NOW, IS THIS GETTING TOO HARD-HITTING?)

As the examples above show, what we have to examine is whether we really want to do the things about which we are nodding our heads. Do we really want to get together with the people? Do we really want to square off about finances? Do we really want to tell our neighbor about our God? One of the truly magnificent things about psychotherapy is that it is meant to be a place where we can be utterly candid with ourselves. I remember reading an article about 20 years ago that said the express purpose of therapy was to get people to say what they do and do what they say. It is no easy task.

If there's anything wrong with a polite lie, it is that we do not get to practice candor and integrity and the matching of heart and thought and word and deed.

Now here we could think of the former Governor of New York State. His actions remind me of a fine bit of wisdom from the New York Times a while back: "The hardest thing to live up to is what you claim to be." In that respect, as the Episcopalians say, "Lord, have mercy on us all." And we could add a sort of Episcopalian prayer: "Lord, illumine our lives with wisdom so that we may always see the preciousness of the life-kingdom we have built, the reality of the people whose lives are in our hands, and may we not throw our whole life away for just a sliver and a slice of (what doesn't turn out to be very life-giving) life." (WILL MY READERS UNDERSTAND THAT I AM NOT TRYING TO BE OPPORTUNISTIC HERE ABOUT MR. SPITZER AND THAT I FEEL NOTHING BUT SADNESS FOR THE GUY?)

This applies to you, yes? How so, you ask? Well, what lie are you being fed and conned by? What momentary delight has you in its thrall and are you missing the bigger picture? (HOLD IT, HOLD IT, WHAT ABOUT ME? BOB BEVERLEY—YES ME, I'M IN HERE TOO) It could be the juicy delight of a steak…the tasty morsel of gossip….the righteous thrill of anger….the forget-it-all allure of porn….the staying up late and risking your health…the over-focusing on your partner's faults…..the over-focusing on your partner's strengths….. and so you (WE) will miss the bigger picture of hurt, failure and misery that needs fixing and you (WE) will miss the blessings that you (WE) have that are outside the purview of the delight that has captured your (OUR) imagination.

And, just like Mr. Spitzer, you (WE) will ignore the warning voices and say "no big deal" and "I'll get away with it" or "I will deal with this tomorrow." And the biggest lie that cons us all is how quickly the tomorrows come and go until all the things we wanted to fix are now backed up like an LA freeway. And we are in one big stall of confusion and delusion and seduction and impolite lies.


I do not mean to sound accusatory. This is all blood to a surgeon for me, meaning that as a psychotherapist I live and work in the world of lies and temptations and seductions and addictions and illusions all week long. What I value can be put simply: what works and what does not work for human well-being? What works in the long run? What looks so promising but does not deliver? And what I really value also are the people who have the courage to look at why they did what they did. And I the reason I write this is because I believe that wisdom can keep us out of a jam or two and, more importantly, lead us down better roads. It is mercy and forgiveness that allows us to head down a better road—and I hope Mr. Spitzer will find that mercy and forgiveness and better road very soon.

The Weekly Dig
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