Can you imagine if people said everything on their minds? It is believed that there was a time in human history when this was the case. However, I don’t think we said a whole lot back then, either. At some point, human brains became developed to a sufficient extent that the motor cortex was able to suppress the muscles involved in speech so that we could have what we now refer to as thoughts. (Did you know that researchers have put tiny measurement devices on speech muscles and that they are able to detect movements, not discernible to the naked eye, while people are thinking? This fascinates me to no end.) Once we were capable of thought, we gained an important level of privacy and capacity for introspection.

We also gained significantly in the capacity to tell lies. Lies to avoid punishment, lies to seize power and dominate, lies to survive, lies to protect the feelings of others, lies for attention, and lies to self enhance. All of us have told lies, sometimes out of politeness but other times for very unhealthy reasons. I consider myself one of the most honest people that I know but even I have told unhealthy lies.

Right now we are surrounded by bald-faced liars on the national stage. It has become popular among a segment of our politicians to tell a lie after lie and not even pretend to be telling the truth. If the lie is repeated enough and has the “zing” factor or stirs up enough hate, it becomes truth. I find this incredibly sad, frustrating, and frankly, terrifying.

I abhor dishonesty that hurts people, including the unhealthy lies we tell ourselves. Yesterday, a story broke in my neighborhood newspaper citing “reliable sources” that a young women who lives in my community and who has been an extremely hard working fund-raiser for the Komen Foundation, has admitted (to the reliable sources) that she faked her stage 4 breast cancer.  I do not know her but I know some of her friends and she is well known in the community. I am not printing her name here because 1) the story has not been confirmed (I believe it will be national soon enough), 2) if true, she is someone with an extremely pathological need for attention, among other issues, and I will not feed that, 3) if true, a public shaming will not treat her mental illness, and 4) if false, oh, that would just be horrible for her.

If this is true, she has committed fraud and has done the unconscionable, over and over. Her alleged deeds cannot be undone by the amount of charity money that she has raised. People who fake cancer, especially those with a high profile such as hers, wear away at the trust of the very people we need to support each other. They encourage suspicion and cynicism.

Anger, outrage, hurt, sadness, grief, you name it. All of these emotions are justified. I have read some comments on the news story that have given me pause, however, most notably a suggestion that the only right thing for her to do would be to “commit suicide”. There were other comments by people who know her, people who even participated in supporting her at a very high degree. These were comments expressing shock and disbelief as well as the inconsistency between the alleged acts and their experience of this person. These comments contained a great deal of hurt but they also contained compassion.

I was more impressed by this compassion than I was with the hateful comments since comment threads are the convention sites for people to spout hatred. None of these folks were saying, “We should have compassion and she should not be held accountable.”  They also weren’t saying, “This is understandable and excusable.”

I have a lot of gratitude when I am able to function from a position of compassion. When the compassion is directed toward someone who has wronged me, it helps me operate more effectively and I am better able to maintain my own priorities, priorities of effectiveness, self-respect, and/or maintaining a relationship. The highest priority can be different for a given situation.

Compassion is active rather than passive. It is extremely powerful and I strive for more each day.