July 25, 2009

Are we really looking for the ultimate lie? The kind of lie that won’t have any negative effects but will ease all our minds. Is the truth just a fabricated ideal? And if it’s not, how do we explain all the little white lies that inevitably spill out in every day conversation?

When it comes down to it, people don’t want to hear a lie; they don’t want to tell a lie. Period. But they don’t really want to hear or tell a negative truth (that she’s fat, that the girlfriend doesn’t really care about your favorite sports team, that we’re losing a war). It ends up being a rock and a hard place. So it’s not that we want lies, we just want all truths to fit what we want to believe.

The idealization comes from the naivete that the truth is always positive. The stories (exception being Washington & the Cherry Tree when truth really stands for courage and responsibility), teach us that lies result in worse situations than the truth. But that’s just not true; sometimes the truth hurts. When we falsely act interested and make polite comments, we’re attempting to give the other person the truth that they want. Why point out a bad haircut when the damage is already done? Maybe on some level, we’re trying to convince ourselves of the same “truth”. Maybe we’re hoping for a self-fulfilling prophesy.

For the record, I’m a big supporter of lying when it will be better for a given situation. That being said, you have to take into consideration the consequences if things get worse rather than better (often this makes lying the worse option).

But for some reason I never thought acting interested when I’m not even counts as lying. It’s not really telling the truth either. It’s more a polite omission of information. Is that omission of the truth a lie? If we withhold information that would change a situation, is that better or worse that speaking a lie about it?



  1. According to some of my ex-girlfriends and my parents, it’s worse than a lie, but I guess it depends on how much withheld information would change a situation.

    • Worse than a lie…interesting. I guess not disclosing information usually then leads to lying to continue the facade, and paired together it’s definitely worse. But just by itself…it’s hard to say.

      • Here’s a good example. (Or maybe a horribly fabricated one – you decide) Your boyfriend used to be a total junkie (drug addict). Then he cleaned up and met you. And when you discuss his past this never comes up. Then one day, perhaps after marriage, you find out. Would you not be pissed? Or maybe, depending on your views of whether drug addiction can ever be cured, you would feel tricked? Maybe even leading to divorce?

        And here’s one that’s based on a true story. (But some details have been changed to make it more dramatic as well as making it about you) Let’s say your boyfriend used to sleep around. Say he slept with someone in high school, but after they broke up they stayed good friends. He never tells you the part about sleeping with her, just says “this is my friend”. And so you let him hang out with her all the time – even without you. Then one day you find out they had a history together. Wouldn’t you feel mad that you didn’t know? Especially since you might not have been cool with them spending time together?

      • I’d probably feel mad/tricked/annoyed. But had I asked if there was any history (in either the drug or the ex-girlfriend case), and my boyfriend lies and says no, I’d be way angrier when finding out later.

        And, in the ex-girlfriend situation, if nothing is going on beyond being friends, is it worthwhile for me to know? Knowing the past would probably make me significantly more worried/possessive/jealous, which would probably take its toll on the relationship. And if it is more than friends, there’s probably something wrong with your relationship beyond just the lying/hiding.

  2. BTW – the cherry tree and washington story is complete BS. Or maybe that’s not what you’re saying. At least on the first reading it appeared you were saying that one was based on truth.

    • I meant, in that story, there’s no reason Washington should have told the truth (beyond moral reasons). So it doesn’t fit with other stories (like the Boy who cried Wolf) when bad things happen when you lie.

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