Do you remember the last time you heard someone lie? I do. It was today. You may have seen it on the bus stop advertisement for that anti-ageing cream that makes you look ‘10 years younger’ instantly. Or the morning TV news that told you to stay tuned because they know how your washing machine is trying to kill you and your family. Or your perpetually perky Facebook friend who is married to her ‘best friend’ and ‘loving life’.
And then there are the people who lie to your face. Right there, in person at the grocery store. You haven’t seen each other in awhile and she’s [let’s call her Dabny] missed every one of your book club meetings for the last two months. She tells you she’s been so busy but she thinks about you every day and oh, have you lost weight? After she rushes off for a ‘work event’ you find out that she left your book club for a much cooler one than yours. So, why is she lying? I’ll tell you why.
An easy way out
Dabny believes you can’t handle the truth. Also, she’s a spineless weasel. Frankly, I don’t understand why you’re friends with her.
Why couldn’t Dabny tell you the truth, instead of letting you waste all kinds of energy and time worrying about your friendship and following her around town and bugging her apartment? And sending her emails and texting her in case she didn’t get those emails, and calling her in case she didn’t get those texts, and messaging her on Facebook in case she didn’t get those voice mails?
Recent surveys show that 95 per cent of people lie at least once a day… and the other five per cent lied on the questionnaires. If one lie was a dollar, we’d all be millionaires. Of course, inflation would skyrocket and you wouldn’t be able to afford housing, food and your cell phone bill but you’d have loads of money.
Lying is all about controlling the behaviour of others. But mostly, people lie because they’re afraid. Like your spineless weasel friend, Dabny, who screens her calls.
Most liars are insecure and starved for attention. The truth is boring, but if you have a ‘filthy-rich’ love interest, or a celebrity who is a ‘good friend’ or worse, a ‘very good friend’, then everyone at the party wants to gather around you and hear about it. Your lies have instantly made you everyone’s ‘best friend’.
Lies that irk me
Like the fictional Dr Gregory House says, “Everybody lies”. I mean cheating Jack isn’t about to tell the doctor how he really hit his head [because he and the babysitter were goofing around], especially with his wife sitting right there in the doctor’s office with him.
Or if you’re standing for elections, tell the people what they want to hear because they will vote for you based on your unrealistic promises. They will scream at you later for not fulfilling your promise. But hey, you got elected and that’s what matters, right?
And don’t get me started on the scam artists who sell pills that will either shrink your whole body or enlarge a specific part of it.
The downside to lying
Here’s the thing—I’m a literal person who expects honesty. If I take Joe blow-things-out-of-proportion literally, I ride his emotional roller coaster with him, reacting to his near-death experiences of wrestling alligators and almost plane crashes as if what he’s telling me happened exactly the way he says it did. After he’s delivered his steaming pile of hyperboles, I’m emotionally exhausted. Later, I will feel like a duped fool for believing any of it. Eventually, I don’t trust him anymore and simply nod along instead of boarding that tiresome train.
If you have a secret, you can tell me or not, I don’t care. I’m not that kind of nosy and I’m not insulted if you keep it from me. I’d rather you say nothing about your closet skeletons than claim you’ve never “had any work done” on your face. Besides, I can tell that you’ve had work done on your face. Nobody’s cheekbones look like that naturally.
As a famous, cherry tree-chopping young lad once said, “I cannot tell a lie”. Though I am fully capable of distorting the truth, it’s too energy consuming for me. I speak from experience when I say that when one lies, one has to store that lie for later reference and I simply can’t be bothered.
I lied to my mother once when I was a teenager. I came home late one day and gave her some lame excuse about breaking my watch and brought in two watch-less witnesses to back me up. But her words indicated that she knew I was lying. In one moment, I’d been caught and punished without being humiliated in front of my friends. I felt horrible. My mother was indeed a clever woman.
When lying makes sense
On the other hand, there are times when lying is a fabulous idea. For example, it’s perfectly acceptable to lie to rude or judgmental people. So what if you have a penchant for squirrel-themed salt and pepper shakers or a late-night doughnut problem? That’s none of their dang business. They don’t deserve the truth for being meddlesome. These so-called friends of yours are emotional terrorists and you can’t let the terrorists win.
Don’t enable their behaviour by answering invasive questions. If you’re a materialistic Judgy McJudgerstein and you ask me where I got this puffy, lime green prom dress and how much it was, I’m not about to tell you I bought it at an 80 per cent discount from a roadside vendor. I’ll say I paid full price for it and had it custom tailored. However, if you’re my trusted friend, not only will I tell you where I bought it from, I will also show you the other cool stuff I bought from him—like an awesome pink chessboard-topped table.
You know, it’s frustrating for those of us who believe in a meritocracy, which doesn’t exist. We watch liars pass us by on their way to the bank because of all this silly integrity with which we are burdened. If only we could tell ourselves, “Well, at least I can sleep at night because I’m not an emotional terrorist,” but then, we’d be the liars.
Nevertheless, we have to keep fighting the good fight because someday, we will win. Someday, technology will advance to the point of reading our brains and everyone will have an app called Polly Graff installed on their smartphones, which flashes holographic emotional terrorist icons above people’s heads when they lie.
Look, I can understand if you don’t want to tell me that you’ve murdered someone or just paid an outrageous sum of money for an awkwardly located tattoo, or you crashed on the couch and binged-watched Spongebob Squarepants all weekend instead of going out with me. Don’t be Dabny, the spineless weasel. You can tell me what you really did, even if it was without me. Or tell me nothing. I won’t take it personally or judge you. If you tell me the truth, I will love you and respect you no matter what everyone else says about you.
And that’s no lie.
A version of this article first appeared in the March 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.