On August 29, 2006, Neil A. Lewis reported in The New York Times that Richard Armitage (former deputy Secretary of State in the Bush Administration) had been confirmed to be the first and primary source of the CIA leak regarding covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson.
On November 11, 2007, during a CNN interview, Wolf Blitzer confronted Armitage with a pretty harsh tape of Mrs. Plame calling his actions “foolish and irresponsible.” In a refreshing display of honesty and accountability, Armitage agreed with his accuser. "She’s absolutely right," he said.
Wow! A truly rare, but refreshing occurrence of honesty, in the midst of a media and political circus atmosphere. In this case, it enhanced
Armitage’s credibility and public image because he was willing to tell the truth.
Outright lies, reality spins, twisted half-truths and deceptive comments are what we have all grown accustomed to get from political figures, government officials, celebrities, high pay attorneys and divorce proceedings.
1. Why is it so hard for people to admit they’re wrong?
For many, it’s pure ego, pride and selfishness. Some would rather lose plausibility than to lose face. Never “appearing to be wrong or found to be wrong,” is the equivalent of “always being right.” Never being wrong gives them power and moral superiority, or at least the illusion of it! I have actually found out in dealing with people that some care more about themselves than about their own spouses, family, children, friends, country and God! I have seen atrocities committed by people who would rather appear right (in their own eyes) than to publicly admit they have been wrong. There are people, who have chosen in their inner souls, way before anything ever happened, that they would “never” be found wrong! So, they spend the rest of their lives trying to prove they are right! I have heard the stories of adult children telling me in the privacy of a coaching session, how a father had wronged them badly and he NEVER admitted to his wrong doing. “Never heard your dad saying, ‘I am sorry I was wrong?’” I asked, “Never!” I remember a daughter telling me how she had been abused sexually by her father for years; when she confronted him, years later, he denied the episode entirely! The debate as to why people lie and are dishonest due to personal insecurity, fear, behavior rooted in a shy personality, low self-esteem and the like becomes insulting to those they have offended and it’s cheap psycho-babble to confuse the real issue: plain selfishness, and pride. There is nothing else to it! In its extreme form the denial of wrong doing is evil caged in the inner most part of the heart.
For others, it’s about dodging the consequences of their conduct.
That’s why we lie. That’s why we are outright dishonest. We know our behavior and conduct would be subject to criticism, questioning, disapproval or, worst of all, civil and criminal liability. Some times I have asked a person who I coach, “Why are you cheating in your marriage? What good does it come out of it?” I get as many answers as you wish to imagine, but they all boil down to the same: “I don’t want to deal with the consequences of being honest!” Cheating on your spouse, cheating on your taxes, cheating on a test, lying to your family and friends are all about the same: instant gratification without paying the price of being honest.
Yes, it’s unethical to lie, but it isn’t irrational. The truth is self-incriminating and may or may not be used against you.
2. Here is a liberating truth: being or doing wrong is human! What is criminal and evil is obsessive wrong doing!
Why is it so hard to accept that being wrong is human? Because we have come to believe that others expect from us what we are not able to deliver. It’s called perfectionism. Our culture, ethical, religious and moral institutions make us believe that! Of course, there is a judicial system to deal with criminal behavior, misdemeanors and obsessive wrong doing. But even then, it’s better to admit to wrong doing and face the consequences of it than it is to be dishonest and become a prisoner of your own soul for the rest of your life! Take a look at Barry Bond of the San Francisco Giants. A hot button in the media and sport circles. Bond, the HR champion of all times, at the peak of his carrier, age 36 and admired by the world; what’s next? His likely disastrous fall will simply be due to arrogance, dishonesty and obsessive lying before his fans, the sport authorities and now the judicial system. Wow! How can someone be so foolish?*
In reality, being wrong is not an option; human imperfection is not an option. Soon or later you will be wrong if you have not been wrong 1001 times already, depending on how long you have been alive! Why not set that principle in your mind as a reality right now? You have been wrong many times, you will be wrong many times; YOU ARE HUMAN AND IMPERFECT!
3. Free yourself from the fear of being wrong by admitting that you do and say wrong things.
Practice honesty whenever you are confronted with truth. I promise you something: You will get better and better at it. You will not only feel more comfortable when people tell you are wrong but you will get better at admitting it and not only that… Get this one, you will be free from the need to dodge, justify, lie, cover-up or manipulate the truth and in the process you will noticed yourself committing less and less wrongs. It’s a magnificent principle! It is one of the most liberating experiences. You get better not by trying to be better but by being honest. That’s the core of a good heart! When you experience that kind of freedom you automatically move away from the labels of being a moral person, religious, born-again Christian, being legal, being a conservative, being politically-correct or whatever! You are just HUMAN and IMPERFECT, period. You do make mistakes but honesty changes your inner spiritual struggle.
4. Benefits of admitting you are wrong
• Spiritual and emotional freedom. Christ shared with his followers one of the universal laws of emotional freedom, “The truth shall make you free,” he said (John 8:32-The Bible). Robert Frost said the same in different words: "Freedom lies in being bold." Honesty is a law like gravity is in the physical world! Once you boldly admit the truth of anything you experience emotional and spiritual freedom!
• Health benefits. Believe it or not there are health benefits to being honest. Your immune system and your body experience the freedom of honesty versus the stress of lying. David, the magnificent King of the ancient people of Israel lied about having sex with the wife of one of his army generals but then also strategize his murder in a cover-up operation. He shared later on how the “cover-up” and his dishonesty affected his body (Psalm 38-The Bible). A great example of psychosomatic illness caused by dishonesty. Living a dishonest life is
• Credibility. People tend to believe you in other areas when you are able to admit you are wrong in the areas where you are wrong! No big science behind this statement. While being wrong is human, being wrong and lying or being dishonest about it makes you unethical and questionable in all other areas of your life. The only ones that don’t understand this truism are the pathological liars. They live under the illusion that they can lie in one area and make the world believe they are credible in all the other areas.
• Character. Very often the “moralistic” type struggles with this issue the most. Character does not equal “being able to cover” your wrongs well! No money, looks, power, position or manipulative power can give you character. Character is what you are in the inner core of our soul. Character is the management of your own imperfection and the world around. Character always comes at a cost and the real test of character is admitting you are wrong when it’s likely to cost more than what you want to pay.
• Helping others. What? Yes! Admitting you are wrong is one of the healthiest ways to help others. And I am not talking here about the “Paris Hilton, or the Hollywood tabloid kind of “melodrama honesty” to make an extra buck with a book, or make it into the infamous TV ‘confession shows’.” I am talking about sincere, honest, character driven admitting that you are human and commit wrongs. People feel better about themselves and get better at admitting their own wrongs when they hear of someone else opening up, especially if you a role model to others. If you are a dad, a mom, a leader, a teacher, or in any capacity of influence the best legacy you can leave behind is to be honest and tell the truth. If you are married your marital conflicts will decrease if you learn to admit to being wrong. People will remember that and honor it. They will disrespect you for life as long as they know you have “explained” things away! This specially applies to the children of divorce parents. Children are eager to know the truth! Children deserve honesty in the midst of the undeserved pain caused by immature adults that are not able to get along or fulfill their marital promises. I have always said that being honest is one way to make the world a better place regardless of your own personal consequences.
• People are more wiling to help you out when you admit you have been wrong! It doesn’t fail. Every time I have admitted to my wrong doing, people are ready to help me. Is it just me? I don’t think so. I have seen the same happen to many others recovering from lives of dishonesty, cheating, selfish lying and covering up.
5. Honesty will motivate you to do what’s right driven by freedom, rather than to be driven by your own efforts to do what’s right.
I hear it often. “I am trying to do what’s right!” I hear it from spouses that are trying to stay married, drug-addicts that are attempting to recover and religious people that are trying to do what they think God will smile at. “Trying” is the key word. It sounds to me like hard work! Can you see the face of “trying”? It almost sounds like being emotionally constipated! Excuse my example. Nothing says it better!
The freedom that comes from admitting that you are human and imperfect is translated into energy to do what’s right! It really works! Honesty is translated into energy to be good and avoid wrong doing!
I believe that when you simply accept the reality of being human and imperfect you take the first step into genuine freedom! The second step is to accept God as the source of perfection in the Universe. The third step is to accept that the perfect God of the Universe has the power to make you “perfect.” The final step is to embrace those three realities! That’s the moment when you not only experience Divine forgiveness, but capture the true essence of moral freedom. You suddenly have a new sparkle in your heart: a desire to do what’s best for you anyway. You suddenly see things from a different perspective. That’s what I call the power of spirituality. There is no substitute for a connection with God. The perfect God gives you direction, perspective, purpose, forgiveness, power to grow; the perfect God frees you from the inside out, from the curse of being human and imperfect, and turns you into a blessing to the world. It is so simple, yet so many people miss it.
6. Here is my final point.
You don’t need to join a “liars anonymous” or a “recovering dishonesty group” to learn to admit you are wrong! The benefits of being honest about your “wrongs” far outweighs the negative consequences of the reverse. You don’t need an English major to write an apology and say, “I was wrong!”. I have gotten letters in the past from people who have hurt me and I immediately know they had just been at a “recovery program” the week before! I am glad something worked for them, but those letters sound so “cover-upish”; like, “I have to ask forgiveness for offending you in order to move on with my life!” You know what? Make it your state of mind and heart first. Then, just do it! Let it flow from your heart!
Practice honesty until it becomes natural to be honest. Doesn’t that have a good ring to it? It will be refreshing to your own soul and to the people who are connected to you.
Harold J. Duarte-Bernhardt is co-founder of the "LIFE ZONE." Harold is a consultant, a seminar speaker and a LIFE Motivational Coach. The "LIFE ZONE" is a resource and a coaching center for personal and spiritual growth committed to providing sound strategies for dynamic living and LIFE FITNESS. Harold believes that PAIN is the greatest window into the best life has to offer! PAIN is never pleasant, it's never fun; but great people have always faced PAIN and difficult times before they found the key to a magnificent life. Harold resides in Southern California and is the father of four wonderful human beings! For more information and coaching visit: www.lifezonelive.com or call 1-888-MYZONE2 (699-6632)