Children are told cheaters never win, and winners never cheat. They are brought up to always tell the truth, since lying is wrong. These are good truisms to instill in young minds, in every culture. As we get older, it becomes clear how cheaters do, in fact, sometimes win. Quite often, they win big and fall to a horrible disgrace when the truth is revealed about their compromised victories. Cheaters who win often act like cornered animals when the enormity of their lies are unearthed. Survival instincts kick in. And the cycle of lying continues.
If you choose to live a life in the public eye, your lies become public knowledge when you fall from grace. The best you can hope for is to choose who you'll spill your confession to, as Lance Armstrong recently did to Oprah. Some lies affect only the liar, and some lies affect the lives of millions of people. In Mr. Armstrong's case, the repercussions of his lies won't be known for some time. His name was on a charitable foundation, and he was looked up to as a cycling hero to young people invested in the sport. Due to a decade of lying, his doping scheme harmed the sport of cycling.
Lies happen frequently in all our lives. Usually in the form of countless small deceptions. Many of these lies are due to pressures to fit in or succeed, to be accepted in social circles or reach a goal. When a close friend or relative asks for a fair and unbiased critique of something that means a great deal to them, we're hard pressed not to sugarcoat our real opinion, but we know we must. Small lies prevent large hurt feelings. People lie to avoid responsibility, punishment, and judgment.
Politicians lie about having sex, or about their sexual orientation. Athletes lie about whether performance enhancing drugs helped them win, or whether they won with their natural physical abilities. Wall Street brokers lie about how much they stole, and what happened to the money afterwards. Everyday people tell small white lies having to do with time, money, and relationships.
The truth is, we lie far more often than we really need to. Our lizard brain in charge of the flight or fight response still has a difficult time believing we're not in more trouble than we actually are. Instead of running away, we make up lies. Small lies to escape minor consequences, and bigger lies to bend the reality of situations. Children will lie after committing a small crime, such as dabbing a finger in cake frosting and licking it off. They'll deny it while frosting coats their lips. (cnn.com link insert)
The one person we shouldn't lie to as often as we do is ourselves. Society instructs and even brainwashes us to believe that lying is an essential activity to keep civilization going. Myth theory also states that myths were created for social control and helped ensure stability in societies. When these ideas and stories become distorted, they can quickly lead to functional delusions. What happens when a positive moral lesson is built from a complete misconception? In the realm of fundamentalism, terrorism can be traced back to these types of functional delusions. What types of internal lies must be believed for a person to willingly blow themselves to pieces?
The lies society has instilled in us from birth are embedded in our psyches. The more harmful ones are becoming easier to spot, and people are more willing to stand up and confront corporate deception, destructive lies issued from politicians, and lies told to reinforce outmoded social norms. It's up to each of us to take the time necessary to question what our social and governmental institutions have told us.
Should we prepare for a more hyper-connected world in the decades to come, where transparency due to technology will make it even more difficult to deceive? When everything about your personality is available online, people instantly expect specific behavioral traits. Potential employers have found socially and sexually compromising photos of candidates on Facebook. In response to the lack of control of online profiles, laws have been enacted to prevent potential employers from requesting passwords to a candidate's social media sites. One has to ask: How did the social lives of citizens and their careers ever become so entangled?
Lies can save our lives, and lies can radically alter the outcomes of events in our lives. We are told that sooner or later justice wins out, and the truth will come out. Eventually, supercomputers make take the role of arbiters of justice. Programmed not to take sides, virtual judges will deliver impartial sentences based on every bit of truth available. In the meantime, we can try being a little more honest with ourselves and others, since one day the future may demand it of us.
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