Lies and Consequences

This post was written by Viveca Monahan

People sometimes lie in subtle ways. These lies aren’t meant to deceive others. In fact they aren’t even voiced, but are pretenses we create for ourselves when we would rather not face what’s actually there.  They happen in a flash. Indeed had I not decided to capture my own inner fibbing I may not have noticed I was doing it. So I conducted an investigation to catch me in the act of pretending what I didn’t know. Here are my findings.

  • First thing in the morning I may have seen clumps in the kitty litter box under the bathroom sink, but I promptly blocked it from my mind. Ten minutes later my husband noticed those same clumps and he cleaned out the cat box.
  • Later I visited the grocery store. There was a homeless woman who always sits outside the east door selling a local newspaper. I pretended I didn’t notice her sitting there as I entered through the west door.
  • That evening when leaving my seat at the movie theater I pretended not to notice that I was leaving my half-eaten bag of popcorn, which had fallen onto its side under my seat.

In reviewing my deceptions I found they had certain commonalities:

  • There were no witnesses.
  • I was not consciously trying to deceive.
  • My subtle pretenses arose out of my innate laziness.
  • There would be consequences for someone else because of my laziness.

I observed other times I pretended not to know things. Like leaving lights on downstairs, pouring clean water down the drain, and allowing the wrong kind of plastic in the recycle bin.

I could have gotten away with it all had it not been for the third question in my Naikan practice: What troubles and difficulties have I caused?  On this one day my husband had to clean the cat box. The homeless woman was cheated out of a sale, and the movie theater attendant cleaned up my popcorn mess.    While reflecting on the day, I realized that regardless of the actual impact, I was causing trouble for others throughout the day, and it was all compounded by me pretending that I wasn’t.

Reflecting in a more global way, I wonder how half the country is so shocked about the opinions and beliefs of the other half. What have we all along pretended not to know?


This image is available for use on the Web under a Creative Commons 2.0 license with a link next to the photo pointing to as follows:Photo © 2010 J. Ronald Lee.