It turns out that Lance Armstrong was lying–and lying big. He not only lied to his fans and those entities that govern his sport, he lied to his friends, his teammates, and he covered up the lies over and over. He also persecuted those who told the truth, even suing them. Many of us suspected he was lying for years–but yesterday he finally told the truth himself. He finally admitted that his lies grew into something larger than his life itself. In Armstrong’s case, his lie started with cheating. Cheating itself is a form of lying by action. He didn’t compete truthfully in the first place. Much of his influence and even his work for good as a humanitarian grew out of his lying and cheating. What does he do now? Will Lance release a yellow bracelet that says “Liestrong” to encourage people to lie in order to get ahead in life?
No–his life is ruined. His influence is gone. Everyone now knows that his successes & efforts are tainted by lies. He regrets what he did, we think. Although none of us truly trust him anymore. There will always be debates about more lies. He should regret the lies. Lying gets you nowhere, in the end. It may take a decade, but even if you are the most successful and popular person in your field, even if you have millions to spend covering yourself, if your lies grows like his it all eventually comes tumbling down. Few take their lies to the grave.
When someone, like Lance Armstrong, finally tells the truth after more than a decade of lying it’s hard for us to understand how someone can let a lie grow so out of control. It’s probably good for us to not “understand” this behavior. But with all things the lies start small. I’m starting a series today on 10 Ways Lies Grow. Here’s how it happens–and how to stop it.
The first way a lie grows:
1) They rationalize it. The first way a lie grows begins with rationalization. You think through how the lie is somehow “necessary.” The lie becomes more attractive than the truth because the consequences of the truth are uncomfortable or even painful. They think: “just this once.” Or “think of all the other good things that could be done after this bad thing (the lie).” The first way a lie grows is when someone rationalizes the lie, deciding that lying is the best way forward.
How do we reverse this first way a lie grows? What is the weed-killer for the newly sprouting lie? The best pesticide for rationalization of lies is personal integrity. We must convince ourselves that even if the truth hurts–telling it or letting it be told retains our integrity. We must accept consequences and situations that are uncomfortable. Integrity means without flaw–it means something is whole. We begin to think that a lie is a parallel fissure in our integrity with pain–but in fact they are two different things. Only the lie is a flaw… pain is stress on the whole–but not a flaw. The pain is caused by a fallen world… the lie is caused by us.
In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” Lies start as selfishness–but begin to destroy your own integrity, which is your best ally in life over time. Lies are convenient short-term fuses that buy time–but blow up later. The best way to stop a lie from growing is to not tell it in the first place because we choose our integrity over our comfort.