Can You Come Here?
White Lies Matter
“Babe, can you give me a hand in here?” my girlfriend called from the kitchen.
“Coming,” I replied, while moving my knight to b4.
In just 15 seconds - or so it felt - I sprung from my office chair. The leather's creak was muffled by my irritated snort after losing yet another game to what was probably an 8-year-old kid halfway across the world. I was playing chess, he was playing with my expectations of victory.
When I finally made it to the kitchen, my girlfriend had her eyebrows raised in exasperation, her mouth slightly agape, with one cheek tensed as if she'd reached her limit. As our eyes met, she quickly looked away, her irritation evident.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I asked for your help,” she pointed out.
“And here I am,” I replied, a bit confused.
“I’ve asked for your help 5 minutes ago!”
Ouch. That little trickster not only played with my expectations but also with my notion of space and time.
This situation felt familiar; being humiliated in chess, and losing track of time when someone is waiting for me. For the sake of my pride, let's focus on the latter.
The World's Most Common Lie
Four decades of firsthand experience assured me that "I'm coming", or any variation of that, would be the most frequently used lie in the world, but then, according to dozens of online influencers, the most common one is "I'm fine."
If it's on Instagram, it must be true, so I guess I was wrong, but at least this restores my faith in humanity a little bit. It means that we're not entirely surrounded by egocentric pricks who don't understand that when someone casually asks us how we are, we don't need to tell them how messed up our life is. Instead, we can be decent people who understand that this interaction is simply social etiquette, and we can respond with a polite lie: "I'm fine, thank you!"
There's a time and a place for open and honest conversations, but casual encounters on the street are not one of them.
This means that you shouldn’t put unsolicited weight on other people's shoulders just because they were unfortunate enough to pass by you on a Monday morning.
Gosh, I'm rambling; it almost looks like I'm still mad at that kid...
I'm fine; let's go back to my other lie.
The World's Second Most Told Lie
I do this all the time. She calls me for something, and I'm physically unable to articulate anything similar to, "I'm way more interested in what I'm doing right now than I am in whatever it is you need me to do, so I'll go there when I'm done with this...babe."
Instead, I lie:
“Be there in a second!”
Why must I plant an expectation in her mind that I know I'll not fulfill, only to end up with her disappointed or mad at me?
Well, I do it to gain time. Whether it's because I'm entertained, or because I'm finishing some important work, I make false promises to avoid friction for a moment, hopefully one long enough to let me finish whatever I'm doing and still be on time to help her out.
I want to believe I'm prioritizing her well-being, but I'm more interested in my own stuff. I respond impulsively, driven by the desire to please and reassure, without considering if I can live up to the commitment.
So I tell her what I believe she wants to hear to make her happy, which ironically, only amplifies her disappointment when I can't follow through in the end.
But it gets worse! These promises aren't exclusive to others; I'm an expert at misleading myself. "I'll exercise tomorrow," "I'll call Mom next week," "The diet starts Monday!"
Yeah, it's like an everyday mantra.
I deceive myself in the same way I deceive others. I play with my expectations the same way I got played on the chessboard, but no one ends up laughing this time, as there's no one who can claim victory when the timer gets to zero.
Do You Also Suffer From This? Can We Fix It?
Is there a solution for this tendency to make empty promises and procrastinate? Can we truly overcome these habits?
I believe there is hope, and if we can tackle this, it's a significant step towards addressing more significant challenges, from world hunger to avoiding another "The Kardashians" rerun.
The solution begins with recognizing that, as humans, we're bound to make mistakes. That's part of our nature. However, it's the insistence on these mistakes, the repeated cycle of empty commitments and inaction, that's the real issue – a habit bordering on foolishness.
Making a mistake is part of being human. Insisting on the mistake is part of being foolish.
People judge us by our actions, not our words, because actions speak louder than promises.
Instead of telling them what they want to hear, let's commit to doing what they want us to do. Rather than procrastinating and making excuses, let's drop the barriers and take action.
That sounds like a plan to me.
It's easier said than done, but trouncing someone on a chessboard is too, and that brat managed to do it without a problem!
But I’m fine, how are you?