Good Morning. This column and a few that will follow over the next few months will be a bit different, and even if you do not initially care for the subject matter, I am ever hopeful that it will cause you to think. The subject is lying and all its parts. Who lies, what do they lie about, who do they lie to, is lying always a bad thing and why or why not? Do you tell lies, do you live lies? What kind of lies have you been told; if you know it is a lie, what do you do? Do you accept it or challenge it?
Let’s start with the definition of a lie. Miriam Webster defines the verb to lie is “to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive.” The same source defines the noun a lie as “an assertion of something known or believed by the speaker or writer to be untrue with intent to deceive.” Wouldn’t you say that the key word here is intent? If the intent is to deceive does that not cause you to wonder about the motivations of the purveyor of the lie? Why would they want to deceive me, you or anyone else? My guess is that there is an ulterior motive, right? That seems logical. Is it incumbent upon me to question if I think there is a lie in the room? Maybe or maybe not. Does it depend upon the lie, the ultimate rationale, the outcome and assessment of if there is resulting harm or even an assessment of who gets harmed? Does the lie confirm an idea or a fact that we have already accepted? There are so many ways to look at the questions and if I can stay the course, we will try to look at them all together.
What were we taught about lying? I do not know about you, but I think it fair to say that most of us were taught that lying was wrong. That was the message I received throughout my childhood and beyond. It did not mean that we did not lie, some would even suggest that lying is a natural occurrence with children: afraid that the truth will have unwanted consequences e.g. a spanking, grounding, more chores and such. It begs the question, “Why tell the truth if it will only get you in trouble?” One could make a pretty strong argument in favor of that logic; however, others might proffer that in telling a lie about a misdeed is conflating the two separate issues and compounding the offense. Nonetheless, that is a challenging lesson to teach those in the learning phases of ethical behavior. The lesson I received at home was this: if I broke a rule or made an honest mistake that caused some damage and then lied about it, my punishment was two-fold. I was punished first for the damage and if it was an accident the punishment was mild, but then I was chastised more severely for the lie.
It is a complex issue and we will dig deeper as to what our culture tells us about lying and we will be sure to examine those incidents that are considered OK: the “white” lie. I am already pondering why it is called a “white” lie. One more thing, think about the content and do not try to read between the lines: there is nothing there!
Until next week, be well.