Many children grow up believing in the tooth fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. It obviously isn’t because they researched the issue on what happens to their teeth after they put them under their pillows or how a sleigh run by reindeers can fly all over the world in one night.
Someone told them to believe it.
I believed in these things as a kid because it felt good. I liked to believe that someone was thinking about me and giving me rewards.
It was all plausible to me because I did not give the details of any of these myths much of a thought.
For most of us where I grew up, these were among the first things that someone (i.e. adults) told us to believe. The beliefs of the tooth fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were our first official theories.
We laughed off any suggestion that they were not real. After all, everyone we knew believed in them, so we did, too. Anyone who said anything to the contrary was not with us. They were just foolish.
The best theory in alternative to the official one was, of course, the theory that adults were lying to us about where the money we would find underneath our pillows or gifts under the Christmas tree would come from. Our parents – lie to us?
It was a lie to help us enjoy our childhood, long before we became adults ourselves and faced big responsibilities. The lie made us feel safe. Never mind it was barely plausible.
But the white lies didn’t stop there. And it wasn’t just being lied to, either.
We learned to lie and accept lies out of comfort. I could not stand eating certain vegetables as a child. I also learned my mom feared looking old. So, at around the age of eight, I lied to my mom by telling her she looked 30 (she was 31 when I was born) to get her approval to skip the vegetables.
In high school, I had a date with a girl who offered no opinions, thoughts or ideas on anything during our dinner. I should have told her that I did not want to see her again. Instead, to avoid the discomfort of dirty looks from her friends who were in my classes, I waited for her to tell me that I was not a high priority.
I don’t know who told the lie that I just needed to get a bachelor’s degree to get a good job. But I felt conditioned to believe it. Then I discovered the cold truth when I took a job shortly after college graduation that did not even pay minimum wage and for which I slaved to try to please a boss who could not be pleased.
We are simply conditioned to avoid truths that would wake us from our slumber of comfort. We are conditioned to respond negatively to unpleasant truths.
I had trouble believing any of my English ancestors held slaves. My family wouldn’t do that! But I couldn’t help but notice a black man named Edgerton Hartwell while watching National Football League games. There were so few blacks in England during the time my ancestors were there, the proof that people I am related to owned slaves stares back at me.
The issue here is not really the truth. It is comfort. Few will risk stepping out of their comfort to speak up for the truth. It is so much easier to stay asleep and tell ourselves that at least we aren’t foolish.