I’m pretty sure not lying is one of the Ten Commandments. And I know that God’s knowledge and power and all that is indisputable, that He’s all knowing, and that I should probably listen to the ten basic rules He sent us. However. I think that lying, to a certain extent, is necessary. It’s a coping mechanism.
“Be true to yourself and others”. Yes, OK. I understand. Don’t make stuff up just because you can. Don’t do something you regret and try to cover it up, because it will not work. Don’t tell people your best friend is Michael Jackson, because he’s, well…dead. And for goodness sake don’t tell yourself your marriage is fine when every evening ends in tears (not that I’ve been married before, but I’m fairly certain tears on a regular basis is not a sign of a healthy relationship). I’m talking about the little, insignificant things. More specifically the ones you can do nothing to change.
I’m a fairly optimistic person. Most of the things I write in this blog are positive. Reading it, one might be astounded to see that nothing bad or disappointing has happened to me in my six months here in Germany. That I haven’t made mistakes of any sort, that I know exactly what I’m doing every second of every day. In reality, that’s not completely true. I’m happy here. Most all the experiences I have had have been good. I feel in control of myself and like I know what I’m doing most of the time. But it’s not like I’m some sort of crazy super-hero, either.
I’ll take the most obvious example. Until last June, I was a fairly normal American kid-apart from the two years in France I had lived my whole life in suburbia, my grandparents lived there as well, as did my cousins, and my other cousins. I had a close family. I attended a good high school, and the community I lived in was a good community that valued education. I ate dinner a bit later than most American families because somehow getting dinner on the table by six never happened. The whole family had a gym membership. Really, the only thing missing from the average upper middle class american family was football on Sundays.
Then I came to Germany. Surprise! I no longer lived in an upper middle class American family! Dinner no longer was the biggest meal of the day. Sundays were spent relaxing at home rather than skiing or recovering from marching band competitions. Gym membership? No way. Skiing? Unfortunately, there are no mountains in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The family was nice (and still is). It’s just, well, not MY family.
My response? Not to dwell on the differences. Not to be depressed that my family here doesn’t work on a Sunday and my family at home does. Not to wonder where the hour long dinners with my dad’s sesame chicken (or burritos…) went. But to lie. To notice, but embrace the differences. To say to myself “Oh! I LOVE the fact that I FINALLY have time to relax!”. To enjoy the bread and meat we eat for dinner most evenings. And the result? I’d say it’s pretty good. In fact, the differences don’t really bother me all that much. I’m not telling myself I love something when I hate it. I’m just exaggerating the good and ignoring the bad. Which is telling myself half the truth. And therefore, under many definitions, lying.
But lying successfully. Because look at me. I AM happy here. And by embracing rather than rejecting the differences between my natural and host families, I’ve been able to make some really good observations (such as the fact that I don’t rest enough in the US). When I feel unhappy here, the answer is not to call home and talk about it. The answer is to either take a nap until it’s better, to write it down until it goes away, or to listen to music specially selected for its healing effects on my mood.
When it comes to lying about things you can change, it’s different. I’ve chosen not to pretend to be happy with just meeting a few people at school (as I was a bit worried was going to be the case when I first arrived). I chose to make sure that I met other people in my class and in the school. I eventually decided I would rather spend my Tuesday evenings at home rather than in the choir I was singing in in the beginning of the year, so I am now spending my Tuesday evenings at home. It’s a matter of following your gut. And if you have a gut feeling, that means you have a choice.
Don’t lie too much. Just when you have to to get to the point that you don’t need to anymore. And only to yourself. Lying to other people is a lot more complicated, I’ve found, because they don’t know what’s going on inside your head and, quite frankly, it’s just really really difficult.