Throughout my whole life, I’ve found myself somehow blessed (or cursed) to be fitted with a kind of innate lie detector. Yet the older I get, the more attuned it seems to be.
Every time I hear a lie – even if it’s a little white one - it’s almost as if a string of red lights start flashing at the back of my eyes and a stream of alarm bells, similar to those of Notre Dame, start ringing inside my head. My whole body starts to oscillate very subtly as if it’s on a frequency of its own.
Although I smile politely and say nothing - as if I believe every word I’m being told - I cringe to the very core of me. My teeth shudder and my bones feel that same eerie discomfort as they do when someone scrapes their fingers along a board of polystyrene.
In my younger years when I didn’t really know what I was dealing with, I use to find it very painful and uncomfortable; especially if the person telling the lie(s) was a loved one or a friend. Nowadays, although it’s still painful to an extent, I just accept it as a part of every day life.
Let’s face it, at some point we’ve all lied about something. We might have lied at a job interview just so we could land the job of our dreams. We might have lied on a first date just to make a good impression. We might have lied to our parents when we snuck out one day. We lie to ourselves all the time when we lead ourselves into false believes. The biggest lie of all is when we say: “We never lie.” We may not like to admit that we do or we may be so self-conceited that we convince ourselves that we don’t; but we all do at some point. It’s a natural part of being a human being. Of course, there are also compulsive liars out there who can no longer distinguish truth from fiction; but I’m not even going to go down that road here.
Even with the best intentions in the world of committing, from this day forward, to never lie again; at some point in the future, we will all lie about something whenever we believe the circumstances dictate that we should do so - even if it’s just to safeguard someone we love from something – Telling a lie for the greater good. I don’t have a problem with that kind of lie; even though technically it’s still a lie.
Personally, I don’t really condone the telling of lies. Yet, even though I cringe to the very bone, I move past them and accept people as they are. However, on the one hand, there are times when I do question if my silent acceptance of someone else’s lies makes me instrumental in their continuation to carrying on telling them. After all, we are all pawns in each others’ chess games. On the other hand, each and every one of us is solely responsible for ourselves.
What I find fascinating, is the motivation behind the act of telling a lie. It intrigues me. I find it contemporaneously amusing and sometimes very sad; amusing because motivations vary and sometimes border on the ridiculous; sad because it can quietly install a deep sense of distrust and insecurity between people, which can push people apart and be very difficult, or virtually impossible, to rebuild.
So just why do people tell lies? – Well, here are just a few of my suggestions, which I’m sure you can add a whole load more to:
To hide the truth of a situation
- Because telling the truth about a situation might hurt someone else.
- Because the person in question doesn’t really want to admit the reality of the situation to themselves; let alone to anyone else.
- Because the truth of a situation could be compromising for the person in question or other people around them;
- In matters of the heart, it could be because the person telling the lie is indecisive or a player who just wants to keep all their options open; to ensure the opposite sex never strays too far away from them.
- Because the truth of a situation may mean admitting defeat or failure to one’s self and/or to others.
To make an impression;
- To be liked by others;
- To land the dream job where an extra push is necessary;
- To be promoted at work where maybe a lack of “actual merit” is present;
- To be regarded/respected in some way to make up for something else lacking in another area of someone’s life. Or, for lack of sufficient self-belief that just being one’s self would be enough;
- Parents sometimes lie to their children to protect them from harm, i.e. the classic bogie man story.
- Children lie to parents about where they’ve been all night.
- Boyfriends/Husbands lie to Girlfriends/wives (and vice versa) about trespasses, illnesses, job situations, finances etc.
The lists could go on forever and I’m sure you could all come up with a whole range of categories. I‘ve just jotted these down off the top of my head.
As a Buddhist, I took a vow not to lie. Yet, oddly enough, there is an exception clause in the case of necessity for the greater good. However, for me that is a very grey area because what might be considered the greater good for one person may not necessarily be the greater good for another. Who can make that call?
When all is said and done, there are no guidelines in life for lies; not for telling them nor for being on the receiving end. We can only take responsibility for ourselves. Before we say something that isn’t true, we can only explore what is motivating us to be untrue, put our hand on our heart, listen to our conscience and see if we can truly live with what we are about to say.
by Venerina Conti