The Truth About Lying

The world’s predictable, in ways,
And so it came as no surprise —
She meant to tell a form of truth
But ended with a hail

Of lies

The fact that people lie all the time doesn’t really bother me. In fact, it’s one of the more endearing qualities human beings have.

Small children lie almost reflexively; years ago, I described this phenomenon with the words, “It isn’t really lying. I think of it more as ‘creating new truth where there was no truth before.’”

And, of course, small kids aren’t really lying: they don’t even get the concept of what a lie is. That’s why you can ask them questions like, “What did you do at pre-school today?” And get answers like “We flew an airplane into some dinosaurs,” which, once you think about it for minute, seems unlikely.

I think lying coming so easily to us as children is a key to what communication is, at heart: it’s not about conveying information, it’s about us trying to get what we want. To children, and, frankly, many adults, lying can’t be a bad thing if it results in them getting what they want.

Have you ever been lied to, Owen? In a relationship? A marriage? Huh? Well if you had, you wouldn’t be so cavalier about it!

Well, first of all, Mister Smarty-Voice, I have been lied to, in a relationship and in a marriage, and it was decidedly uncool. But she wasn’t lying to me to try to fool me, she was ashamed of a part of her life and tried to hide it from me. Her eventual truth-telling was just part of her journey, part of her becoming… her.

I was just sort of collateral damage.

I do understand that relationships of all kinds need honesty: business relationships, friendships, and romantic relationships. But even there, there are types of honesty that are really cruelty wearing a mask. We all know the type of thing I’m talking about: that friend who says cruel and hurtful things to people, usually followed up with, “well, I’m just being honest.”

Honestly a jerk, you mean.

Telling the truth is like taking medicine; just because you can doesn’t mean you should, and too much of it at the wrong time can be fatal.

I was thinking about truth and lies because I’ve had to do quite a bit of research for some of these essays, trying to get dates and ages right. I’m sure some of them are messed up, anyway. I don’t remember clearly, and can’t find any documentary evidence to confirm or deny the memories I do have. So I go with them.

In the event, in such cases, that my memory turns out to be faulty, most people don’t think of it as “lying”, they think of it as “remembering wrong”, with the implication that lying is deliberate and “remembering wrong” isn’t.

Unless you are a public figure, of course, in which case you are just a liar, in the eyes of the many vigilant souls we have out here in who zealously keep watch over such things.

I inherited from my mother a love of all things nonsensical. I had the following exchange with my boss (via office Messenger) at work a couple of days ago:

Him: … he also wants us to go back through and make sure there’s nothing we’re forgetting.

Me: Sounds good.

Him: Can you think of anything we haven’t thought about?

Me: No. I feel very comfortable saying, I cannot think of anything I haven’t thought about. Kind of by definition.

Very often, when I say ridiculous things, I meant to say something sensible, but it just kind of morphs mid conversation:

Wife: Did you finish that Audio Course on the Middle Ages?

Me: Yep. All 78 parts.

Wife: I’m surprised you aren’t exhausted.

Me: I must be. I ended up in the feudal position.

Wife: The feudal position?

Me: It’s like the fetal position, but with more clearly defined hierarchy.

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