I'm a liar. Just the other day I lied flat out, straight to someone's face and I know I'll do it again. And yet I think lying is wrong and bad. Don't lie -- isn't that one of the 10 Commandments? I'm sure of it, right? But could we live without lying? Maybe not in this world.
The other day I did the unthinkable; I referred to a woman's obvious state of pregnancy, something I know full well that you NEVER do unless they SAY they're pregnant first. I said 'I'll help you, after all you're pregnant . . .' and I wound up putting size 11 in mouth, again.
As the embarrassed and shocked woman explained that her shirt was just puffy, she'd had a big meal, etc. I tried honesty to diffuse the tension but it didn't work. To make her feel better, to save face, to keep her from storming out of the meeting and tearfully telling everyone what an idiot I am (true), I lied. I told her that I had her confused with another friend who looks just like her, who is pregnant, and it had nothing to do with her appearance, just a brain 'glitch.' Weak, eh?
I don't know if it worked but we finished the day of work and I may never see her again. But, ouch! I had hurt her feelings, felt like a jerk and then lied on top of it. What would you have done? Come on, we all lie from time to time.
Now we're all not liars to the level of Mark Kirk who invented exploits and awards before casually admitting he must have "misremembered it wrong" (he can't even say 'I was wrong' straightforwardly). And the only person who's cheering for Kirk is Connecticut Senate Candidate Blumenthal who forgot that during the Vietnam War he never actually made it to Vietnam. I'm sure he's thinking, 'Thanks for taking the spotlight off of me, Mark.'
And then we have Sarah Palin who 'misspeaks' all of the time, citing half-truths and non-facts as if they were true and then spinning the correction via a spokesperson, if at all, to cover her total lack of concern for the truth in the face of headline grabbing. She even recently accused President Obama of being in big oil's pocket when she herself ran on the Presidential ticket that was fueled by oil bucks. The problem is that her criticism and accusations are front page headlines, the corrections get buried beneath the classified ads.
We all remember Richard Nixon's, 'I am not a crook,' and Bill Clinton's promise that he did not have sexual relations with Monica Lewinski. Though we all knew he did, but we let it blow over because as a nation we believe that being a philanderer doesn't make you a bad president. We tend to categorize and rate our lies according to scale, position and fame.
We even have heroes in fables who are famous liars: Pinocchio's nose grew every time he told a lie (and he told a LOT of them). We still like Pinocchio because we understand that his lying is part of his growing up, the same way that every boy tries lying as they learn who they are in society and what works or doesn't work.
All boys lie, all girls lie, all people lie -- but what's important is that we learn to tell our lies from our truths. We need honest conversation that it's not a world of black and white, good and bad, right and wrong, as we were told in school. Our teachers lied about lying (kind of) and we had to learn about lies on our own as we grew up and entered the 'real world.'
Nobody taught us that we'd have to face lies and decide what to do with them as we went along. We have to somehow learn on our own how to identify the lies for what they are and what they intend and decide which are acceptable.
"I'm a decorated veteran" -- I lust for power and I'll do anything to get it.
"I could do better than Obama" -- dizzy rhetoric a la back seat driver or megalomaniacal naivete
"I am not a crook" -- The ends justifies the means; I did it for you, my people, you need me! (scary!)
Any answer to "Do these jeans make my butt look big?"
"My dog ate my homework" -- I don't want to get into trouble and I'm not mature enough to be accountable yet so don't ruin my permanent record.
"The check is in the mail" -- I'm doing the best to stay afloat here, but will make good, I promise.
And that's just a start. We lie about our height, our weight, our age; we dye our hair, wear wigs, get tummy tucks and face lifts; we lie to each other for each other and yet we still say we honor and uphold truth as a society.
Even our most trusted professions lie to us and we accept it. What happens when the doctor's office gives you a 9:30 appointment but asks you to come 15 minutes early to fill out paperwork? Isn't that a lie? Why not just say the appointment is at 9:15? And you know you'll sit there 35 minutes waiting to see the doctor anyway? Let's try telling the patient that and saying 'bring a book, it's going to be a bit of a wait!'
So what's the answer? Partly it comes from the Disney version of Pinocchio's story and the song by Jiminy Cricket that says; "Always let your conscience be your guide." Part of it comes from us, as a society letting our voices be heard by voting, getting involved and voicing our opinions as often as we can. And part of it comes from personal work, introspection and development as we strive as human beings to live as honest and authentic a life as is possible to us.
For my part, the topic has come up often enough that I'm presenting a webinar on lying and how we can achieve that balance to live as honestly as possible, take responsibility and live an authentic life. To hear more about the details please email me at James@doityourselflifecoach.com or visit my site and sign up for the mailing list.
Just for fun I have to share that one of the most popular pages on a site my business partner and I maintain is the 'Quotes on Lying' page. I don't know if people are gathering these quotes in favor of or opposition to the subject, but it gets a lot of traffic.
Before we leave the topic, I can't help mentioning the one lie we simply can't forgive, no matter what: "We're doing the best we can to stop the oil leakage and feel strongly the damage can be contained".
If you believe that, I've got an oil covered bridge for sale ...