Who doesn’t tell the odd whoppa now and again? It’s not just politicians who are economical with the truth. We’re all prone to telling the occasional fib although it’s generally accepted that honesty is the best policy and lies are a bad thing.
With the partygate scandal costing Boris Johnson his job and threatening to bring down the Tory government, it’s clear the electorate is sick of being lied to. Small children have little conscience about lying as they learn very young to say whatever will win them approval and avoid a telling-off. It would be funny to hear grown adults blatantly lying like five-year-olds if they weren’t running the country.
I’ve always wondered why people in the public eye sometimes do stupid things, lie about them and then are wounded and surprised when they’re found out. The moral outrage provoked by dishonesty destroys careers, marriages and lives. Lying can be a risky business.
Kind Untruths Aren’t Lies, Are They?
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But it’s something we all do routinely every day. Most lies are fairly harmless and without malice. Compliments are sometimes kind untruths to avoid hurt feelings. And when we say ‘I’m fine’ we don’t always mean it and are being polite when the truth is more often likely to be a variation of Fragile, Insecure, Neurotic or Emotional (F.I.N.E. meaning not so fine).
Smart kids are often bare-faced liars. Until they’ve developed a sense of right and wrong, children are transparently inept. If their moral compass remains uncorrected, they become more sophisticated as their language skills and mastery of manipulation improve. It takes a vivid creative imagination to weave a web of lies and maintain the yarn.
Dishonesty is more sinister when it’s a deliberate strategy to manipulate. The internet exposes us all to fake news which is often used to influence public opinion for political or commercial gain. Scammers are masters of deceit and skilled at clearing out bank accounts with false promises and fake identities. Fraud and fake news are insidious. We all have to be on our guard against criminal misinformation as there are now few who haven’t been targeted in some way.
Sometimes, lies are necessary, accepted or tolerated. For example, when someone says they’ll try and be on time, it’s pretty obvious they won’t be.
Trying is lying. Here are some other common classics: throwing a sickie, saying your phone battery died when you don’t want to speak to someone, claiming an ignored email went to the spam folder, telling someone you’ve bumped into it’s great to see them when you’re not bothered if you never see them again, pretending you’ve read or seen something to show your friends how cool or clever you are, telling a date you’re dumping ‘it’s not you, it’s me’. There are many more of these careless lies which can be regarded as hurtful or disrespectful if you’re on the receiving end.
Denial and Trust
It’s strange but true that some people will collaborate with a lie to keep the peace or to avoid an unpalatable truth. Denial is a way of kicking reality down the road if you can’t face it. Many relationships stumble on with the unspoken knowledge of infidelity eroding their foundations. For some, being cheated on is better than being alone even though it’s the ultimate betrayal. Lives can implode when the truth is out.
Trust is the bedrock of a healthy relationship and, once that is lost, the truth cannot always fix it. A suspicious mind is tormented by doubt and those with guilty secrets can be cruel in defence of their lies. Stonewalling is a means to deflect attention from the truth. Projection attributes blame to the victim. Gaslighting casts doubt on reason and ghosting means never having to explain.
These common strategies camouflage lies and maintain toxic behaviour. Generally, we are more accepting of others’ imperfections when they’re open and transparent. It’s better to come clean about weaknesses and mistakes. However, honesty isn’t valued as highly as it used to be now Christian beliefs aren’t so influential. It used to be bad manners to lie and cheat but now good manners are out of fashion too.
Literature and folklore warn of the dangers of dishonesty and are historic memes still relevant in modern times. In Aesop’s fable of the boy who cried wolf, he learnt his lesson too late when nobody came to his rescue. Hans Christian Anderson’s The Emperor’s New Clothes is surely a tale of how social media influencers can lead us to believe the unbelievable. The Keith Waterhouse novel Billy Liar describes the trail of misfortune left in the wake of a fantasist. The Netflix series Dirty John is an account of a true story of a drug-addicted con artist exploiting a woman he met online dating. All these are salutary tales of the misery caused by deception or falling victim to it.
Narcissists, psychopaths and fantasists are all dangerous liars as they act out of self-interest and either believe their own lies or don’t care about the consequences. Trouble is, they can be difficult to spot and, even if they know what they are, they won’t or can’t change. Such accomplished, controlling, self-interested manipulators are clever at concealing strategies which benefit them at the expense of others. They’re often charming, charismatic and adept and hiding their darkest intentions. If you have anyone like this in your life, they can be hard to break free from.
Tell the Truth
The morality tale for modern life is to take your time getting to know people. We jump into relationships too quickly without realising what we’re taking on. Luckily, most people don’t intend to harm or exploit. But, commit too quickly and you may find yourself repenting at leisure.
Our need to fit in and be accepted makes us prone to only showing our best bits. Being true to yourself and being authentic in the way you express your needs will help avoid misunderstandings and is far more likely to result in lasting, honest, mutually respectful and trusting relationships. True love comes from being truthful about what you want and who you are.