Lying Liars and Their Lies

That title is a bit of a take-off on an Al Franken book called Lies (And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them), a mostly comedic look at the BS of politicians on the extreme right in the US.  I say “mostly” because he was obviously also trying to make some rather serious points somewhere in between the funny lines.

We love to catch politicians in the act of lying;  in some ways I think we even expect it.  For instance, when a person running for some kind of office begins making political promises, we pretty much expect them to break one or two of those promises when they actually win.  Most of them will site all kinds of excuses, such as the ever-changing political climate or not having known the true state of affairs until they came into power.  The list of excuses goes on, and we smugly sit back with our “I told you so” smirks.

There is a Geiko commercial featuring Abe and Mary Lincoln, when she asks him whether or not what she is wearing is making her butt look too big…he hesitates for a long while, and then…well, I’ll let you see for yourselves:

Sometimes honesty can be a difficult thing!

But lying, in and of itself, is not so funny.  Children begin to the learn the art of lying at or around the age of three-and-a-half for many reasons.  Even though the behaviour is discouraged, as we all know, most of us will continue to lie, maybe only rarely for one reason or another for the rest of our lives.

On the extreme side, the Casey Anthony case in the US, aside from being a terribly sad story about the death of a little girl, was also a very public demonstration of how families can be destroyed by lies.  One Anthony family member after the other (all except Casey, of course, who never did take the stand and face up to her lies) sat in front of the courtroom and the cameras and cried in response to the lies and deception covering up the death of little Cayley.  And because no one was telling the truth it seems, especially Casey, we’ll never know how that little girl died and why. 

So why do we lie?  There are many reasons we might be tempted to;  to save face, to protect ourselves or protect someone else, and sometimes it’s simply because we don’t want to hurt an other’s feelings.  Is there any occasion where it might be considered okay to lie?  That’s something none of us can really answer with any confidence.  Trust between two people is a very fragile thing;  it takes only one little lie to destroy trust and often months or even years to build it back again.  I have been on both sides of that equation, and neither is a very nice place to be.  Most of us hopefully learn from those experiences.  But if you’ve ever been in any kind of relationship with a habitual liar, someone who either can’t help themselves or simply won’t stop, you know how terribly destructive lying can be.

An interesting phrase I learned a few years back is “lying by omission”.  Sometimes we will use the excuse that we didn’t actually lie because we didn’t say anything.  But leaving out information, especially important information, is also a form of lying.  That bit of information can often make the whole difference and change the entire scope of a story and we know it!

Yep, we KNOW when we’re lying; we know when we’re twisting the facts just a little in our favour or leaving out certain information.  The most difficult thing is learning to be honest with ourselves first…that little voice in our heads can often make all kinds of excuses for us to make us feel better, but ultimately, as they say, the truth will set us free.  Learning to look at ourselves in the mirror is the first step and we can’t possibly expect others in our lives to be upfront and truthful if we ourselves are not.

Lastly, how do we deal with the people in our lives who we know are habitually lying to us?  I have had a couple of relationships like that, and I know that you probably have had at one time or another too.  Do we give up on these people?  Do we try to make them face themselves, or do we simply hope that one day they’ll see the error of their ways on their own?  When you sit there with that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach telling you you’ve been deceived yet again, you can’t help but beat yourself up for continuing a relationship with that person in the first place.  But I can also see why people stick with their husband’s or wives, for example, in spite of the lies that are buried in the back yard.  Love is a powerful and forgiving thing, and if there wasn’t love to begin with, the decision would be obvious.

To forgive, or to let go…if I ever find a definitive answer to that one, I will honestly let you know.  In the meantime, I vow to continue working on myself because I know that the best teacher is by example.


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