Directly Indirect

Something I’ve noticed about our culture as of late is the veil we put over everything: our intentions, our motives, our desires, even ourselves. We all seem to be pretending. We tell half-truths or flat out lies to ourselves and to others. It feels as though we are all spies behind enemy lines, spreading misinformation to keep those around us at arms length, never fully aware of who we really are. We put up these facades because we want applause from people, but applause doesn’t challenge you or help you improve as a person. Maybe this topic is on my mind because I just saw the new Mission Impossible (which is a blast by the way, go see it), but this idea of opaqueness seems to be the norm now, and I’m not necessarily sure it’s a good thing. Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s hurting us.

In a 2002 study by Robert Feldmen of the University of Massachusetts found that the average person tells two to three lies for every ten minutes of conversation. Studies have also shown that children begin decieving as early as 6 months old, usually by fake crying or laughing when there is no imperative to for attention. Evolutionary psychologists often point to lying as an example of how we adapt to survive as a social species, and this is true. We use it get ourselves out of situations, save ourselves embarrassement, cover for someone we care about, attempt to gain favor or inclusion, or in extreme cases, save lives. While I would be the first to say that there are moments where lying may even be justifible, where I will draw the line is how we interact with one another. We are too casual with lies, and this casual attitude towards it is hurting not only ourselves, but other people around us.

Technology is an amazing thing, but it also makes deception so much easier. People can create entire second lives online and tangle others in their web of misinformation. The documentary “Catfish” and the subsequent MTV show dealt with this very idea. In the show, the creators talk with people who are engaged in online relationships, and they want to know if the person they are in love with is actually the person they say they are. More often than not, it turns out to be false, and both parties are left to deal with deception and the ramifications of it.  While these are extreme examples, we do this in our “real” lives as well. 

I love stories where nothing is as it seems, where you’re kept guessing about people’s alliances, and there are surprises and double-crosses. These things work well for the movies or the detective novel, but not for real life. We try to be clever for cleverness’ sake, and this isn’t helpful. Subtlety has become confused with evasiveness. Men and women “hang out” while neither is really sure what the purpose behind it is, and eventually emotions start driving decisions instead of sound thinking. We have a problem with someone or something they did, and instead of dealing with it directly, we use avoidance, underhanded comments, or exclusion to get our point across when in reality, these actions will only cause more problems. A guy spends a lot of time with a girl, gets her emotionally invested, and then suddenly backs away after he gets what he wants, leaving her confused and devastated. We see a friend struggling or failing to see something within themselves and instead of pulling them aside and pouring into them, we sit back and remark about how they can’t “get their crap together”.

Couples that “hang out” are afraid of lables because they don’t want anything too serious. Guys aren’t often direct because they don’t want committment. People aren’t direct with one another about issues because we believe confrontation will ruin things. Friends are afraid to call out their friends because they believe it would hurt them, so they let them self-destruct so we can maintain our “comfort” levels. 

We’re afraid to offend, confront, or be intentional, so we do something worse: we play games. We string people along, keep people at arms length, and engage in a form of emotional and psychological manipulation with one another to keep ourselves safe. In reality, you aren’t safe. You’reisolating  yourself. Look around at your friendships and relationships and ask, “Am I satisified?” If they feel ten miles wide and an inch deep, maybe it’s because you’ve been avoiding any kind of directness.

When was the last time someone was direct with you? Direct as in they told you exactly what they were thinking, feeling, wanting, or intending? It may have been refreshing, or it may have been painful, but I can bet that it was what you needed to hear. 

This is something I’ve really tried to work on the last year, and so far it’s been a beneficial experience. There have been moments where it’s been painful or terrifying, but also rewarding. So my challenge to you is this: Be direct. Don’t be rude, but be direct. If you like a girl, tell her. If your friend is struggling with something and can’t see it, pull them aside and talk about it. If you’re having an issue with someone, deal with them directly. Make yourself known, all of you, not just your best parts. We hide ourselves to protect ourselves, only to see that we have no real intimacy with anyone. 

We have to be real with each other, but most importantly, we have to be real with ourselves. Our society is more connected yet alone than ever before. Don’t let that happen to you. As Morpheus said to Neo, “Welcome to the real world.”

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