Dear Vicki: This is probably a rhetorical question – I doubt that you can really answer it – but what happened to telling the truth? At work, my boss “fudges” numbers to make things look better to his investors. A friend recently said she couldn’t help me paint my bathroom because she had to work late, but another friend saw her that evening laughing it up with a guy at a bar. Even my sister lied to me. She said she loved the blouse I gave her, yet as far as I can tell she hasn’t worn it once. And let’s not even discuss what’s happening politically these days. It is very wrong to tell a lie, so when did it became so acceptable? And why? Is there something the Five Elements model has to say about this? Signed: Still Honest in Hanover
Dear Still Honest: I have to say that I agree with you – as a nation we seem willing to accept dishonesty more easily lately. I also agree that we are not going to discuss political issues here, other than to acknowledge that the people in positions of leadership do affect social norms. What we can cover is why the people in your life might be lying and why it’s affecting you the way it is. Basically, the fact that your response to lying is so strong suggests that you probably have a primary Metal personality, or at least must be acting from that place at this time. Metal people can be very absolute in their ideas of what is right and what is wrong. Coloring inside the lines, so to speak, matters a great deal to them. And the reason for this can be found in the Five Elements model.
The element of Metal sits at the end of the cycle, which means it sees the whole of the cycle and can determine what worked, what didn’t work, and what is of great enough value to be taken forward into the next cycle. From that perspective – from their focus on the past – it’s easy to understand why Metal personalities believe that know what is right, or even best and important, and what isn’t. Further, they often believe that if we know what works really well, we shouldn’t ever want to do anything differently. This is an example of the black and white thinking of a Metal person. Truth is important, so lying is never acceptable. But not everyone is a Metal, and the other elemental personalities each have their own relationship with the concept of lying. Let’s take a quick look.
Earth personalities frequently embrace the use of the “white lie.” That’s lying for a good reason, for example to protect your feelings when they don’t like a gift you gave them. Earth people hate to hurt anyone or anything, so can easily justify a tiny fib for the sake of someone’s feelings. This could have been what motivated your sister to tell you she liked the sweater. Perhaps she didn’t like it, but felt that telling you the truth might have hurt you. Hence, her little white lie. As a culture, we often acknowledge that white lies can be okay, even though your Metal personality may not agree.
Wood personalities will occasionally lie to make themselves or something they’re associated with look good. In fact, a Wood person usually doesn’t think that stretching things a little is really lying. Rather, they think of it as “massaging” facts or “putting a positive spin” on something. Wood people need accomplishment to feel good about themselves, but are usually smart enough to calculate exactly how far they can go before crossing into the “direct lie” arena. This sounds like your boss; “fudging” a little to make things look better. But he needs to be careful. In business, there are strict laws against intentional misrepresentation and our courts are usually intolerant of this kind of thing.
Fire personalities love the excitement of going to parties, laughing, having fun, and meeting new people. They also don’t have really strong boundaries or structure to hold to a social norm if it gets in the way of a good time. The friend who lied about not being able to help you paint your bathroom probably figured you’d never know she wasn’t working late. For her, the lure of an engaging time with a funny guy was worth the little lie to you. Most of us would probably agree that going out is much more fun than painting a bath. But your friend did violate your trust, which may take some time to rebuild. And that may be the price she pays for her lie.
Water personalities are the one elemental personality for which you don’t have an example in your letter. That may be because Water people usually aren’t social enough to have a lot of people around to lie to. Water people are imaginative, inventive, quiet loners who are searchers of truth, but truth with a capital T. Water people rarely need to lie to impress others, nor will they think to lie to protect someone’s feelings. If they do lie, it will usually be to meet their own needs. For example, a Water person might lie about feeling ill so they can stay home and read instead of going to a party. The consequence of their lie will be that they will miss out on whatever happens there.
The truth of the matter (pun intended) is that all lies have consequences. Metal personalities know and understand this, which is probably why you’re having such a hard time with people around you lying. You know it isn’t right. And up until recently, it was strongly ingrained in our culture that lying was wrong. Most of us can remember being punished as children when we lied. But lately, there does appear to be more “misrepresentation” than usual in the public arena. Perhaps this has emboldened other people to succumb to the temptation to lie for whatever reason their elemental personality needs. But as your Metal personality knows, “Honesty is always the best policy.” Hopefully, we’ll all embrace that understanding again soon so as to avoid the inevitable consequences. Blessings to you!