I used to lie a lot when I was a kid. I wasn't intent on deceiving people, but for some reason I would just tell made up stories. They weren't even fantastic stories, they were just things that hadn't happened. I really have no idea why I did it.
One day I was hanging out with my friend Ryan and his family. We had just gone to a movie and were driving back to his house. Right as we were driving down his street I told a story to everyone in the car. I don't remember the story, but I remember it had something to do with cabinets. Hey, it was a long time ago.
Ryan's mother innocently asked a question that began with, "Wait... if you did that, then how could you have..."
I was busted. The story was completely fabricated and everyone knew it. Worse, it wasn't even impressive. I had lied about some mundane every day story. I was mortally embarrassed. Everyone could sense my embarrassment and took it as a sign to keep quiet. That was worse.
I think that day was a turning point for me, even though I was only in middle school. I stopped lying. Seared into my brain was the idea that lying equaled immeasurable humiliation. Telling the truth couldn't possibly be worse than that.
Since then I have a more mature philosophy on lying. I do it all the time. Just kidding. Here's why not to lie :
I'm totally not perfect, so I guess I do lie once in a while. I'm sure you've read about that ONE time. My lies are tiny ones, though. The other day I told my mom I was farther along building her web page than I was. I felt bad about it. Then the next day I spent a lot of time and built the whole thing. Still, I should have just told her the truth.
Some people make up insane lies that I can't fathom. I've seen people construct HUGE elaborate lies that they have to keep up on a daily basis so that people don't figure out the truth. One girl (no, not the one in my story) even pretended to be pregnant to try to keep her boyfriend. She was a total wreck and eventually alienated all of her friends when they found out about her lies.
I get accused of lying about my stories pretty often. I hope that this is because my stories are fantastic, not because I seem like a liar!
Sometimes you can be put in awkward situations, though. For example, let's say that Sally told me that she's going to dump Bill. Bill then says "Hey, do you think Sally is going to dump me?"
What should you do?
I would lie and pretend that I didn't know. As far as I'm concerned, if someone tells me something and tells me not to tell anyone, I didn't hear it. I don't think lying is a great option, but I think it's the most fair to everyone involved. Also, I would be lying to sally if I told her secret to Bill.
How about if a guy says, "Hey do you like my painting?" about his ugly painting?
There's a lot of incentive to lie here, but there's no good reason to. I would say "Honestly, not really. I'm not any sort of art critic, but it doesn't appeal to me." I've never seen someone who doesn't appreciate this sort of honesty. If he asks, I might give him some more detailed feedback that he could use later. If he paints a better one and I say, "Ooh, I like this one," then he knows that I'm telling the truth .
If you lie, be honest with yourself (or is that a catch-22?) and examine why you lie. Is it REALLY the best thing to be doing? Maybe give total honesty a try for 30 days and see where it gets you. It can be scary, but it's worth it.
I agree to a certain extent that lies do not help the person while white lies are good if there is no point in hurting someones feelings. My current boyfriend makes little lies as a "joke" that puts me down. I am not sure why he does it other than it makes a better story to laugh at rather than the sensible, nice girlfriend he has thats not doing anything newsworthy. We are having a chat tonight...
Sh*t.. did sally really tell you that??
i cant beleive it, i know things have been bad, but... oh man, i cant believe she is gonna dump me!
In all serious interactions the truth works, yeah.
When you're with your friends, it's sometimes funny to make something up that's so blatantly over the top ridiculous it is obviously a lie, then keep it up. For example, my claim that I'd spent the weekend defending a village from fire ants in Antigua... To this day I still insist that's what I was doing. Stupid I know, but what you can do with friends you can't do with acquaintances or strangers.
I'd also throw in the idea that slightly bending the truth with a story to make it better, funnier, cooler is also acceptable, so long as you're not changing the big picture at all or making anyone else look bad. I'll often throw in a little detail into a story that didn't happen but makes it much funnier. I don't feel bad about this, because it's unimportant and has helped to entertain people.
I had a friend who told a little white lie when drunk, which eventually snowballed out of control into some massively amazing live-altering story because he kept adding to it whenever he'd had a few beers. He ended up having to tell everyone he knew that he was making it up all along. It was funny when we found out, but a bit stupid.
I think the main difference in lies is who the lie serves. If you lie to save yourself, it's cowardly, but if you lie to save someone else or to create a greater good than the truth would, it's kind of noble.
asfdlj brings up a great point. Tact can make all the difference in the world and may explain some of Tynan's success with his truth telling. He can probably put it in a gentle, clever, heartfelt way that leaves both parties feeling no ill.
Remember although, absolute truth doesn't mean an absolute lact of tact! You can still omit saying anything if no one asks you, and you can blunt or you can be tactful. You can even do what the jain's do, which is absolute silence if you confronted with something you should not say.
I'm always tempted to write about Radical Honesty, but I never do because I don't practice it. I don't lie, and will be radically honest when it's requested, but I don't offer it habitually.
(if you don't know what Radical Honesty is, it's the idea of saying what's on your mind-- always-- with no regard for social convention.)
Radical Honesty's opposite is Standard Dishonesty. Not the pathological lying or deception we encounter sometimes, but the polite withholding of feedback that we all practice on a daily basis.
A couple days ago, I told a Nigerian engineer to "Work online. Use freelancing sites. Lie about the country you’re in. [...] There’s a big stigma against Nigeria. That’s just reality, and you need to deal with it."
A reader replies -
I feel for this guy but I am surprised you recommend lying. There has to be another way. ... I have a problem with lying, period, and perhaps I’ve misunderstood Sebastian but I think he stands for straightforwardness.
Let's talk about this straightforwardly, like adults, like grown-ups.
Most people won't do that. It's inherently weird. Most people don't own up to the fact that they lie, yet almost everyone does so. A lot, actually.