I had the honor and privilege to meet with my good friend Jed today. Although he coaches in Sacramento, he just happened to be a couple miles away for a wedding, and we coordinated to meet at Starbucks.

Jed is such a great guy, and such a great gymnastics coach. Like so many of the brothers and sisters I have in the sport, he really cares for the kids and his fellow coaches. When we met Jed looked me from head to toe and was busy taking inventory. He made sure that I had good shoes and socks first with an eye to provide for my needs. Did I need a new pair of shoes or socks? Did I need food, clothes, cold weather gear, or cash? I wasn’t in need of any thing, but it is nice to know that you have friends that will do whatever they can to aid you in your vision. The only thing I needed was his company and friendship, and he provided that in spades.

We got to talking about how his students are doing which led to talking about a girl that he is in a bit of quandary over. She has been caught repeatedly lying and stealing. Stealing money in fact from her grandmother’s purse. What perplexes Jed in his desire to help her is that she doesn’t feel bad about it. She has no remorse. She is 11.

The concept of guilt or remorse is an interesting concept. There are many people that drive how they want regardless of laws, others’ admonitions, or the penalties or consequences of their actions. Unfortunately however, some of these people don’t change their behavior until after a deadly consequence occurs. It is their empathy for those affected, perhaps the victims’ families, that causes the person to reevaluate their behavior.

In the end it is their empathetic emotion for others that changed them; they put greater value on other then themselves.

In middle school we learn to lie, and for the rest of our lives we only get better at it. Since I’ve been involved in this pilgrimage, and the year spent preparing for it, I’ve endeavored not to lie and to be as compassionately truthful as possible.

Lies. They are the fabric of our social interaction.

1. Sixty percent of people lie during a 10-minute conversation.

2. The average person tells two or three lies in those 10 minutes.

3. Men and women lie about the same amount. They just lie about different things.

4. Women most often lie to make others feel better.

5. Men most often lie to make themselves feel better.

6. However, while on the surface of that statistic, it appears women are more altruistic, both the men, and the women are lying for protection. Women so that they can remain in control/part of the group. Men so that they appear in control.

Even the famous signing gorilla Koko, lied when asked who ripped the sink out of the wall? She answered, “The kitty did it.”

We learn to lie by watching others. We learn to lie because we are desperate to get something that we don’t believe can be obtained in any other way. We lie to protect ourselves. We lie to hide. We lie to impress, repress, or gain access.

When a girl asks you, “Does this dress make me look fat?” As a man, you don’t say yes, and you certainly don’t offer the truth and say, “No, but your face does.” As true as that may be…no one wants to hear it. In that sense, lying is compassionate. It is our empathy that prompts us to lie to spare another’s feelings.

The big lies however almost always revolve around money, and most likely the biggest lies are told to those we care for the most…kind of ironic eh? We often tell the biggest lies when we are ashamed or when something hasn’t lived up to our expectations—usually our own behavior. We don’t like people to have a lesser opinion of us, so we bolster our image with lies, half-truths, and exaggerations.

One thing that I hadn’t anticipated is encountering the lies of others on this trip. Subconsciously, we all have our own built-in bull shit detectors. We listen to every story someone tells us, and try to piece together the truth. Statistically we all (even cops) stink at sleuthing the truth. We average about 50%, or the same as guessing. There are techniques and truth discerning books out there that make you better at telling fact from fiction. This usually has at its basis reading a person’s “tells” as in poker.

I’ve found in this pilgrimage that I just take all that anyone tells me as truth. Just as there are “tells” for a lie, I believe (based on nothing more than my own experience) that there are “tells” for belief. I’ve found that when people lie or tell me the truth, and I react to both with general belief and wonder at their stories, they feel secure, loved, and respected. I can’t change whether or not they tell me the truth, but what I can affect is my reaction, and I’ve found giving everyone the benefit of the doubt has had a tremendous effect.

I have become a reporter in some ways. As if I am an elementary school reporter, one before middle school, before we learn to lie, before we become cynical, before we find out there isn’t a Santa Claus and all of society plays a giant joke on us. Like the 6-year-old boys I formerly coached, I believe any yarn or truth a person tells me with the same conviction…and I am happier for it.

Jed mentioned that he feels that in dealing with this young girl and by catching her in her lies, he is almost teaching her to lie better. Her lie success/failure percentage is decidedly such that it seems that anyone would give up the practice…but we all don’t. It is HARD to stop.

So what then is the best alternative…believe everyone. Believe the best about everyone. I found that most people that I meet lie because they want to impress me. They lie, exaggerate, or embellish the things that they have done because they really want to be loved and accepted. People lie about things that they wished they had done, things they wished they had said, and things they wish they had accomplished.

A woman I love very deeply lied to me for years about almost everything, and I’m not exaggerating. Of all the things she stated, 99% of them were lies. She lied to protect who she was, and to foster belief is who she wished she were. The sad truth is that her realities weren’t up to snuff in her own mind, so she created fictitious ones. She wished she were a paramedic, mountain climber, college professor, and a person who worked with indigenous peoples. The truth was she didn’t do any of that, but she wished she had. Having found out the truth, I had nothing but compassion for her. She was so unhappy with her reality. If only she would have known that people would have loved her for whom she was not for her accomplishments.

Are any of us different? We have all stretched the truth to impress, to get a job, to make ourselves feel better, safer, or more loved.

Jed and I talked at length about whether the girl he was dealing with has a chemical imbalance, and therefore has no remorse. The more I thought about it, catching her in her lies was probably, as Jed surmised only prompting her to tell better lies. I think the opposite tact; the one that I’ve been employing with all the people I meet is perhaps the best one. Saying to this young girl, “I don’t know if you will lie or steal from me, but I’m not going to try and figure it out and catch you. Rather, I am just going to believe everything you say because I love you. I know you love me too, as such I ask you not to lie to me, but I love you no matter what, and I will always believe you no matter what.”

Jesus said forgive others 7 x 70, or in other words, always forgive. I say, trust everyone, even if their past dictates that they aren’t worthy of that trust. It is in granting it, despite the consequences to us, that we display our greatest compassion. Succinctly, it is stating,  “I believe in who you are, regardless of what you tell me.”