Lies, Liars, Lying

This is my 2nd crack at an essay on lies, liars & lying. Not at all sure why I feel so strongly compelled to write about this, but it seems I do. We’ll see where this goes…

I came across this interesting quotation recently: “We tell lies when we are afraid … afraid of what we don’t know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us. But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger.” (Science-fiction author Tad Williams, quoted in Deep Truth – Igniting the Memory of Our Origin, History, Destiny, and Fate, by Gregg Braden.)

I was intrigued by these words.

*** long pause as I look out the window…

The truth is, I guess, that lies, liars & lying are so deeply, deeply embedded in our culture that I realize suddenly, as I write down these words, I don’t even know where to begin!

Here’s the thing: I like to think of myself as a truth-teller, you see, yet it’s quite abundantly clear to me that many people (even or perhaps even especially those closest to me) often don’t much want to hear what I have to say. We truth-tellers are a stubborn breed, though. We’re pretty much impossible to shut up.

I’m wired for truth-telling. I'm also a rotten liar. I have no idea why this should be so, it’s just the way it is. Lies & liars & lying don’t just make me miserable & uncomfortable, when I try to tell a lie myself, this big red light on my forehead starts flashing (slight exaggeration, of course, but I’m really utterly hopeless at it).

I never used to understand why so many people tell so many lies – & so routinely, so casually, so easily, apparently. Then two people close to me – people I love/d – explained that the only way they were able to survive their childhoods (childhoods characterized by some really horrid dysfunction/abuse) was to become proficient liars at an early age. They did it to protect themselves.

Ahhhhhhhhhh. Then I finally “got” it.

Lying becomes a habit, hmmm? Once you go down the rabbit hole of habitual lies/lying, how do you find your way back out?

Perhaps self-evidently, of course, it’s hard to have deep trust for someone you’ve caught out in a flagrant lie or two.

Well, duh.

We know politicians lie fluently (most of them seem to, anyway), as do corporate hotshot types (hooey the whoppers those characters tell, eh??) & unfortunately, as we’ve already established, even regular everyday folks we know & love who developed the habit so long ago, I guess, that they have no idea how to get it stopped, lie somewhat routinely.

An awfully sticky business, this lying thing, isn’t it??

It’s also quite clear to me that people really appreciate authenticity.

Dang we’ve made a complicated mess out of things on this planet.

What are we to do? What are we to do? What are we to do?

Maybe just what is always the only possible thing to do, really.

Small steps. Simple things.

Genuine smiles. Genuine friendliness.

Small acts of generosity (even large ones!)

Authentic attempts at authenticity.

I can’t really think of any other way to tackle it.


p.s. there’s this other amazing quotation about lying: “The liar’s punishment is not in the least that he is not believed but that he cannot believe anyone else.George Bernard Shaw, Irish dramatist & socialist (1856 - 1950). Hooey, now there’s a zinger for you! Another important insight.

Another, not too shabby: “Of all the lies in the world, sometimes the worst are your own fears.” – Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), English poet & writer

p.p.s. a couple of other posts that touch on lying & truth-telling & “elephants in the room” are here & here & here**  [but those links are defunct now]

p.p.p.s. a few favourite & perhaps relevant quotations: “Apology is a lovely perfume; it can transform the clumsiest moment into a gracious gift.” – Margaret Lee Runbeck

“A clear conscience is more valuable than wealth.” – Filipino proverb

“It’s one of the secrets of the world. We all have the key to one another’s locks. But until we start to talk, we don’t know it.” – Michael Silverblatt, host of KCRW’s ‘Bookworm’ radio show (a posting about the value of conversation here)

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “Lies are infinite in number, and the truth so small and singular.” – from The Lacuna, a fascinating novel by Barbara Kingsolver (pg. 247)