I’ve got a confession to make: I’ve lied to my parents.
Of course, that’s probably not the most unusual thing in the world. I mean, everyone lies, right? I doubt there’s anyone among us who hasn’t. But the real question is, was I wrong to do it?
My parents have always had very strong ideas about who I’m allowed to date. It’s all about religion for them. If she is not of the same faith as me, I’m not allowed to date her. I find that kind of amusing, actually.
Once you reach 18, you’ve reached the age of majority, and the law considers you an adult. But you can be 40 years-old and your parents will still see you as their child. Every choice you make, everything you do, they criticize as though you’re still in grade school.
Even the “cool” parents who give their kids the freedom to live their own lives are probably the ones who were pretty laid-back from the beginning. I don’t think parents’ views of their children ever really change. In their eyes, we never really grow up.
As for my parents, they’ve always been very controlling. They cut off my brother when he dated out of the faith and they’ve told me, more than once, about their zero-tolerance interfaith dating policy.
The problem with me is I don’t see people as religions. I don’t see them as skin colors or ethnicities, either. I see people as people. To me, it is more important to be with someone I love than to be with someone who meets some arbitrary criteria that has nothing to do with who they are as a person.
What does that have to do with my lies? Well, I don’t discriminate in dating based upon religion. And since I know what the parental reaction will be, I have lied about it in the past. In general, I just avoid the situation entirely by not discussing my love life. But when push comes to shove, I lie about who I’m dating.
So am I wrong? Am I a bad person for lying to my parents?
My parents have created what I call a “culture of lies.” They have stacked the deck in such a way that I have no choice but to lie about certain things.
It’s not just parents who do this, though. How many times have you known exactly what someone’s reaction was going to be? Maybe it’s your parents, but maybe it’s a sibling, a teacher, a friend or a significant other. The better you know someone, the better you can predict their reaction.
Look, we’re not emotional superheroes. There’s a limit to how much emotional strain each of us can take. Some have higher tolerances than others, but everyone has a breaking point. People will avoid reaching that point if at all possible; that’s where lying comes in.
Aside from that, everyone engages in a little emotional cost-benefit analysis now and again. Is the benefit of honesty (i.e. the knowledge that you’ve done the right thing) greater than the cost (i.e. the trouble it is going to cause)? If it’s not, why in the world would you tell the truth?
That’s what I mean by the “culture of lies.” Through our actions and reactions we’ve made it near impossible for some people to tell us the truth. It’s easy to judge others for lying to you, but is that really fair?
After all, we’re the ones who create our own cultures of lies. It’s nobody’s fault but our own that we have given people reason to believe they have no choice but to lie to us. And if we’re really honest with ourselves, there probably isn’t one of us who can’t say we’ve lied to someone in the past.
I know I have. And I probably will in the future, too.
But maybe it’s not my fault my parents have made it impossible for me to tell them the truth about who I date. Maybe it’s not my fault they’ve created a culture where it is better to lie than to tell the truth. And maybe there’s a lesson to be learned in that for each of us.
Maybe the next time you find out someone has lied to you, rather than get angry at them, you should be angry with yourself for making them.
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