Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why Lie?

The news of Lance Armstrong's upcoming confession raises a lot of questions about the motivation of someone to deceive. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from Lance's actions and I'm sure we'll all be trying to unwind the various threads of the stories for years to come. Then late today the story of Manti Te'o broke and that got me thinking about deception and how deeply we can go to deceive others and to deceive ourselves. If you haven't heard the story yet, you can read the full article on Deadspin. In short, there were inspirational stories all through the football season about this player's girlfriend losing her fight to cancer and how devoted he was to her. A beautiful story about true love and perseverance. The problem is, the story is a lie.

Now I don't know whether Mr. Te'o was the victim of a cruel hoax or using this story to increase his fame. In the end though, both of these stories are examples of the distance to which men will travel to propagate deceit. There's no denying that Lance Armstrong did a lot of good things for a lot of people. He became a symbol of hope for those stricken with cancer. His story was inspirational and I can easily understand his justification in preventing that image from being darkened. What would happen to his foundation? What would happen to all of those people who were personally affected by his struggle? Would someone fighting the terrible disease give up their hope if Lance's image was shattered? Being faced with questions, its not a large leap to see that Lance would want to keep his image. 

But how do you resolve his deceit with the vehemence of his denials. He shouted to the world about the "witch hunt" of his accusers. He sued his critics in court, won and collected millions of dollars while insisting on his own trustworthiness. All the while, he knew he was lying and many of his closest advisors knew he was lying as well. Why?  I think George Costanza said it best.

There comes a point where you need to completely deceive yourself in order to deceive the world. How can a man knowingly lie to the world? Its easy once you've knowingly lied to yourself. We've all had those moments in our life where we've worked hard to persuade ourselves against the truth, and once that's done, we turn to persuading those around us. We convince ourselves that we're happy in a dead end job, or we accept failure as a rule of existence and then live our public life with that acceptance.

So where is the lesson that we can take from these men. Personally, its one that I have found has been the key to the happiness I've found in my life in the last few years. Don't lie to yourself. Accept yourself for who you are and what you can do. Build from that base, and only then can you improve yourself. When you live on a base of lies, eventually that will crumble.  

Looking at Manti Te'o's story, it becomes hard to believe he didn't know his "girlfriend" wasn't real. But, its a slippery slope when we start to lie to ourselves, ignoring the glaring truths. I started this blog as a tool to help myself be accountable. As a younger man, I would have just written what I thought would make me look good. If I skipped a run, I'd make up a story about having done a few miles. But all lies crumble in the end. You can't run a half marathon on a training log full of lies. Just like Lance Armstrong couldn't build a legacy as a great man on a pile of lies. It negates much of the good will he's built.

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