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Why Telling the Truth Sucks, and Why It’s Awesome: A Case Study

Have you ever withheld information from someone? And you told yourself it was for their own good?

And maybe it was.

Like not telling your best friend that you can’t stand her husband. Or not telling your boss that his breath smells like curdled milk.

But what about those times when the only reason we’re withholding information is for our own protection? How do we nudge ourselves out of the shadows of withholding and into the light of truth?

Case in point:

Melissa and I have an extremely open and honest relationship.

We tell each other everything. When Melissa first met me, she had yet to encounter anyone who could match her in the art of emotional processing. Indeed, she liked to think of herself as the Queen of Processing.

Not anymore.

That’s right, Goofballs. I may look like a king, but in the area of sharing the events of my life and the feelings engendered by them: I am the Queen.

photo: Frank Kovalchek on flickr

It is for this reason that I am always shocked and amazed – and a little unnerved – when I come upon a bit of information I don’t want to share with Melissa.

The other day this unusual occurrence happened not one, but two times.

The first time was in the area of bookkeeping. I’m the bookkeeper for the family, and in the process of working through a reconciliation of the bank statements, I realized I’d entered some of the data incorrectly.

My first thought was that Melissa didn’t need to know about it.

This was, of course, for my own protection. I wanted to look capable. I wanted to be worthy of the title of Bookkeeper for the Family of Goofball and Melissa. And yet I had proved – to myself, at least – that I was not worthy of this title. Or at least I had sullied my record.

Now, in realizing my mistake, I also realized a way to fix it. So why did Melissa need to know? What harm would it do to withhold this eensy-weensy bit of information from her?

You know when you get a little pebble in your shoe?

And you’re walking along, and all you can think about is the pebble? The sun might be shining brighter than it ever has before.

photo: Ibrahim Iujaz on flickr

The birds might be singing in four-part harmony.

But all of your attention is on the pebble.

That was what the rest of my day was like. I went about my business. I completed the tasks before me. And yet there it was, in the back of my mind:

Pebble pebble pebble pebble pebble pebble pebble pebble.

That night, I was taking out the recycling. This particular batch of recycling included two cardboard boxes that needed to be broken down at the recycling bin.

I decided to take a knife with me.

Melissa’s favorite knife.

I decided it would be a good idea to put the knife on top of the stack of recycled items.

I’ll remember to remove the knife once I get to the trash area, I told myself.

Oh yes, my friends. This is where it gets really fun.

So there I was, a Goofball walking to the recycling bin. A Goofball lifting the lid to the recycling bin. A Goofball dumping all the recycled items into the recycling bin.

Including Melissa’s favorite knife.

The minute it happened, the minute I realized Melissa’s knife was now at the bottom of a huge blue trash can, I heard it again. The same thought from earlier that day:

Melissa doesn’t need to know about this.

I couldn’t believe it. Twice in one day! What was happening to me?! Next thing I knew, I’d be robbing banks, kidnapping prize show dogs, cavorting with international espionage experts on the beaches of Cancun. And Melissa would know nothing about it.

I was witnessing the beginning of the end of our relationship, right there at the recycling bins!

Okay, I realize I was being more than a little dramatic. I told you I’m a Queen, didn’t I?

photo: Steve Snodgrass on flickr

But I also knew there was an element of truth to my hysteria.

One of the reasons that Melissa and my relationship works is that we keep the channels of communication open. Yes, it’s a cliché spouted by earnest therapists across the land, but that’s because it’s true.

I could feel my little pebble of dishonesty working a wedge between me and my sweetheart.

And I did not like it. Not one bit.

So what did I do? I marched back to the house and I told her everything. I told her about the bookkeeping snafu and I told her about the knife.

And she forgave me.

And she laughed.

And we went out to the recycling bin together, in the dark, to retrieve the knife.

Yes, it sucks to tell the truth sometimes. It can be hard and uncomfortable to reveal that you’ve made mistakes. And that you’re a dork.

But telling the truth is also awesome. It allows you to more fully accept yourself. And others. It allows you to stay bonded and connected to those you love.

And sometimes, if you’re lucky, telling the truth means you get to go fishing for an excellent knife at the bottom of a big blue trash can. With your sweetheart. In the dark.

What have you learned from telling the truth? How has it set you free?

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24 Responses to Why Telling the Truth Sucks, and Why It’s Awesome: A Case Study

  1. Steve March 20, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    Shouldn’t there be a caption on the bottom photo of Melissa and THE KNIFE that reads; And if you EVER lie to me again……

    • Z Egloff March 20, 2012 at 10:16 am #

      Ha! Yes, that would be appropriate. I’ll let Melissa know. . . . 😉

  2. Michael McElroy March 20, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    Absolutely love it! The best picture of Melissa is the one holding the knife. Not because of the knife but the great smile! Be glad it was the recycle bin and not the garbage can.
    I worked with a man that loved his Wustof (sp) knives and his wife used one like a screw driver to pry something and broke the tip off. He will probably be damning her on his death bed. Dumb!
    Nothing disturbs me more than someone lying to me. It shuts the door of communication faster than anything I know. There is some information about myself that I only share on a need to know basis but I never lie about it.
    Yes, distraction like the pebble in the shoe causes us to make mistakes. Think how critical distraction is when we are driving a vehicle!

    • Z Egloff March 20, 2012 at 10:21 am #

      Hi Michael,

      Melissa was a great sport with that picture. All of those shots were after the fact, and that particular night it was starting to drizzle. Plus I’d never used our new camera in the dark, so I was figuring out the flash, and it wasn’t working right, so we had to keep taking lots of pictures before we finally got some good ones. Lucky for me, she has a great sense of humor! She’s also a huge support for this blog. She edits my posts, and she’s becoming a regular presence in the posts themselves. All of these are reasons why it is best for me to continue to tell her the truth!! I agree with you that lying is a huge contributor to the break-down of relationships. Given that communication is the #1 factor in a successful relationship, lying just messes everything up. . . .

      XOZ

      • Michael McElroy March 20, 2012 at 11:56 am #

        The only reason telling the truth sucks is based in our own fear.
        Fear is a killer! I really believe it is the most incapacitating emotion there is! Overcome the fear and feel the freedom that produces.

        • Z Egloff March 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

          I agree that overcoming fear can be extremely liberating. There’s nothing more exhilarating than pushing past constricting beliefs that keep us quiet and afraid. I’ve also found that what feels like it’s going to be a brick wall, in terms of moving forward through the truth-telling, ends up feeling like it’s made of paper – much easier to get through than expected!

  3. Veronica March 20, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    I think it takes courage to be married to the truth. It so easy to flirt with it or date it but to fully go 100% you got embrace self love and self forgiveness. You have to know that we in spirit pure perfection but having a human experience. Flawed, fragile and frequently goofy. Now where did I put my bozo nose? Cheers for a life of self love, courage and forgiveness. Ashe!

    • Z Egloff March 20, 2012 at 11:00 am #

      Hi Veronica,

      Well stated! I agree that the hardest part of the telling the truth is the willingness to look “flawed.” But, like you say, when we know that we are, in essence, pure perfection, it gets easier to be gentle with ourselves. Especially our goofy, dorky selves! Again, it goes back to self love. With that, it’s a whole lot easier to tell the truth. Here’s to all of our bozo noses!!

      XOZ

  4. Debra March 20, 2012 at 11:12 am #

    I really feel supported reading this Z. You know your in the correct relationship for your highest good when these lessons show themselves. When the pebbles show up… I get to respond differently than ever before.. When my ego is bruised, I am scared I will lose something, not get what I want and my pride gets in the way I have a tendency to with hold information. I can’t hide from myself as you so beautifully shared :). I can relate to the pebble in the shoe 4 sure.. Seeing Melissa’s smiling face holding the knife awakened me again to it’s good to tell the truth knowing I am held in high regard and love. The hard part for me is allowing people to have their process! There is that place where I can feel I am the mistake….. painful spot. It’s what I am telling myself that sets that old original cause in motion. Of course, it is not true just old programming. Everything shifts. I am not going to die from humility. Lol- Learning to trust that life is for me.

    I am finding as time goes on I don’t need to tell my beloved everything.. until I am ready or maybe not… but for the things that we are interconnected about and made agreements regarding. Yes Yes Yes- I do even if it is scary. Thank you Z Happy Tuesday-

    • Z Egloff March 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

      Hi Debra,

      Great to see you here! This is such a journey, isn’t it? And it seems to be different for everyone. I love your line – I am not going to die from humility!!! So true. I’m gonna remember that one. That certainly is the hardest part sometimes, being willing to be seen in all my humanness. Not always the most comfortable thing. Even though it’s almost always liberating, in the end!

      XOZ

  5. laura March 20, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    Great post, Z, but let me get this straight….you got Melissa to dig for the knife???
    Now that’s a good sweetheart!

    xo

    • Z Egloff March 20, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

      Hi Laura,

      No, we actually hunted for the knife together. So she’s still an awesome sweetheart. The photos in the blog were after the fact. She was just more willing to pose in front of the camera!! :)

      XOZ

  6. Jo Lauer March 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    I support “tell the truth no matter what” 100%, and would add the caveat, “don’t get attached to the outcome.” I joyfully told the truth to my family when I came out, and lost my parents for four years. Turns out they would have preferred I’d spared them the truth. Long term result, however, was that they eventually accepted the truth that I could have hidden (to their and my detriment). Tell the truth because YOU need to tell the truth.

    • Z Egloff March 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

      Hi Jo,

      Yes, it is ultimately about our own relationship with ourselves, isn’t it? The pebble was ultimately bothering me, not Melissa. Like with you and your parents. I’m glad that, after four years, you were able to resurrect your relationship wtih them. And that they know the truth, even if they would have preferred not to!

      XOZ

  7. Fran March 20, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    As usual, a great story!! Indeed you are the Queen!

    • Z Egloff March 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

      Ha! Don’t those photos look just like me?!

  8. Jill Shinn March 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    This reminds me of a time when my husband “lost” his car keys. He thought I had them, somehow, and asked me to look in my purse, but I told him I knew they weren’t in there. He looked for his keys for hours, and then eventually took my van to his evening meeting. He was devastated by being so stupid to have lost something so important. I thought to myself, “He’s so absent-minded!”

    During the evening, I needed something out of my purse, and when I opened it up, there were my husband’s glistening, jangling keys. I almost has a heart attack, because I thought he’d be furious when he found out, and never trust me again. For the next two hours, the devil on my shoulder and the angel on my other shoulder duked it out. I thought of 100 different ways to watergate the situation, but in the end I was so tormented and guilty that when he walked in the door, I confessed everything.

    Surprisingly, he laughed (like Melissa) and gave me a hug. It was one of the best lessons of my life, because this was not the first time I had (almost) withheld incriminating information for my own benefit.

    • Z Egloff March 21, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

      Hi Jill,

      What a great story! I’m not surprised that we’ve had such a similar experience – both with the loss of a small, metal item and both concerning the potential disapproval of our partner. And both experiences ending with a found metal item and a laughing, forgiving partner. Just sayin.

      I love hearing similar experiences from others. It reminds me once again of the power of our assumptions and the value of telling the truth. It’s a lesson that continues to be valuable to me, no matter how many times I hear it.

      XOZ

  9. Eve March 20, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

    I agree you did the right thing for sure. Honesty always pays off and what a heavy load to carry around with you 24/7.
    It’s better to say it the way it is and work out the ending together part of love is forgiveness and knowing we are humans that make mistakes large or small but comming clean can sure take off the heavy load and make room for all the good you share together.
    I think you are both awsome!!! I enjoy Weds nights at church with you both.

    • Z Egloff March 21, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

      Hi Eve,

      Thanks for stopping by! Yes, withholding can be such a heavy weight, can’t it? At least for me, I tell myself that it’s different than lying, because I didn’t actually say anything that was dishonest, but it seems to create a similar unease in me. Telling the truth is always the way to go!

      So glad that you’re enjoying the Wednesday Nights – we’re having a blast with them!

      XOZ

  10. Kary April 16, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

    Hi Z, That was funny, even if it didn’t feel like it at the time, huh? But I can really relate. Because I lived such a HUGE mandatory lie every day of my childhood, pretending nothing was out of the ordinary in our perfect appearing family, honesty became very key to my sense of myself; to validate my experiences, my feelings, my history. Since I left home I have been extraordinarily honest, even blabbing about stuff people didn’t need or even want to know. That is not to say I have never lied, but it is extremely rare. And I don’t like it! Not even a little! I discovered that when it comes to guilt, for me the feeling was so over-powering and painfully smothering (like when isn’t being smothered painful?) that I would/will not engage in activity that I would feel guilty about. Besides, my gasping for breath and writhing on the floor in agony were sure to clue someone in that I was hiding something, from a bounced check to being kissed by someone’s father! Hiding things is something I’m just not good at. I consider myself successful if I can keep gifts a secret! Susie and I sat down and discussed what I’ve come to think of as our “rules of conduct” when we began our relationship 23 years ago and the very core of it is honesty. I believe that without total honesty there is no real trust and without trust love cannot survive. It doesn’t matter how much you love someone, if they don’t trust you, well…. I think the harder it is to trust someone (say if you’ve been hurt, and who hasn’t been) the greater that gift of trust is. And it is a gift. I think it has to be given even if it’s not comfortable, doesn’t feel safe. Gracie’s out back barking like a poor ignored and clearly unspoiled girl so I’m off. (50lbs. and she thinks she’s a lapdog!)
    Thank you, for your honest sharing!

    • Z Egloff April 16, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

      Hi Kary!

      Welcome to the land of the Goofballs!!

      I like that you point out that honesty became, for you, a way of validating your own experiences and feelings. Very powerful. There’s something so cleansing about honesty – like a good rain storm. And I agree with you that it’s VITAL for a healthy relationship, even if it feels difficult in the moment to take that risk and share what’s really going on.

      Thanks for checking in!

      XOZ

  11. Laura May 16, 2016 at 8:12 am #

    Wait a minute! You used her favorite knife on cardboard boxes!! (Stay away from her sewing scissors!)

    Great Post!!!

    • Z Egloff May 17, 2016 at 10:16 am #

      Hi Laura, It was/is more of a utility knife – not her sharpest food-cutting knife. Really!! :) XOZ

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