Monday, November 26, 2018

A Buddhist Approach to Lies

I dislike being lied to by people I think I trust. We all go through a good friend or family member who lied to us and we feel a loss, but wait! Maybe I have gained more compassion and perhaps a pathway to more patience and tolerance. Still, when we discover we were lied to,  we can feel sad and hurt, or even angry and that is okay for a few moments. I guess the question is why do people lie? So I decided to take a Buddhist approach. First, one must know lies hurt. When people lie, even if they think others will never find out, it create a barrier in your relationship with that person.  Lying destroys people because it takes them into a vicious cycle that is extremely difficult to get free from.

Once someone tells a lie, they usually have to lie again to cover up the first lie, and they feel even worse, if they have the ability to feel guilt. In my case, this particular person really does not feel any sort of guilt. Still, lies grow, they never stand alone, and they need more lies to support the first lie. Thus the cycle of habitual lying starts. In Buddhism this is not the path to love truthfulness and compassion, and is clearly not a karmic path I would want to follow.

Trying to understand the physical aspect of lying is important. When people lie, it stimulates three main sections of the brain. Lying activates the frontal lobe for its role in the truth-suppressing process, the limbic system due to the anxiety that comes with deception, and the temporal lobe because it's responsible for retrieving memories and creating mental imagery. Here is something else, the more you lie, the more the internal conflict of lying diminishes. People stop feeling so bad about lying. They no longer worry or feel guilty about lying. That's not so great really because if the liar no longer feels like lying is a big deal this affects their karma and their spiritual growth.

We need to have compassion because we have to understand that people lie for reasons. So why do people lie? It is hard to give just one reason. One has to look at a variety of reasons. Some people lie because telling the truth feels like giving up control. Some lie because the truth can be inconvenient. Fear seems to be the number one reason why people lie. They are afraid to upset someone, lose their job, and because they are fearful of losing the respect of those around them. They want you to like them so much they lie to get the likes. People lie to have acceptance, to get approval and attention. Sometimes they lie to be appreciated.

Unlike Christianity, there is no rule/commandment in Buddhism about lying however, the Buddha believed in order to find enlightenment, to walk in peace, we need to abstain from falsehood. In Buddhism, being truthful goes beyond simply not telling lies. It means speaking truthfully and honestly, and it also means using speech to benefit others, and not to use it to benefit only ourselves.

For me as someone who practices the philosophies of Buddhism or at least work daily on practicing, I ask myself what to do about someone who lies constantly. I get and understand we need to have compassion. Nobody likes being lied to, and the natural reaction is to call the liar out, but that’s not always the smartest thing to do. I tend to be surrounded with people who lie. I think it is a past life thing really. However, in this lifetime I get that lies can be harmful, and I try to have compassion for those who lie.

So I pretty much get that the person lying is not willing to have enlightenment, and that they are living a hurtful life to themselves and others, so when I see it in that way, and meditate and make sure I see it like that, I can have compassion and move on no matter how big the lie. I get to understand it is part of their brain structure and personality and for that compassion needs to be a must. Please remember compassion when loved ones are dishonest.

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