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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Thoughts on Lying

A couple of weeks ago I opened my email to find a challenge from a dear friend of mine. Her challenge for those of us in her writing circle was to start a blog and post at least three entries a month. I’ve started a few blogs before but they never seemed to take off or offer me inspiration. This one, however, has been different. This gesture to please my friend and widen our circle of writing acquaintances has started a journey down a road that is paved with self-reflection and introspection.

I’ve written about my need to write, the perils I’m facing as I age, and how stereotyping people can be painful and destructive. Tonight I am writing about lying and how I feel about it. I guess I have learned to lie, (with only the best of intentions), but I get very irritated when someone, (namely my teenager), lies to me.

I’m not an expert on this matter but I would bet that we all lie to some degree when we’re with our friends or our family. Most of us refer to these lies as “little white lies.” I remember a day in the late 1970’s when I had taken my niece on a shopping excursion. She is only five years younger than I am and I always enjoyed her company. I was an old married woman of twenty years-old and that placed her at the age of fifteen years-old. We giggled, tried on clothes in store after store, and walked through the mall until blisters were forming on our feet.

My niece wanted to grab a snack before we headed back to the vehicle so we headed to the food court of the mall. Just as we were sitting down I heard my niece speak to someone. I turned just as she said to the lady, in a very loud voice, “Gee, do you think you could find an uglier blouse?” I was in shock and people around us were laughing. The middle-aged lady left the table without saying a word as she pulled her sweater closed and walked away without looking back. I scolded my niece for being rude and her argument was, “But I was only telling the truth.”

Sometimes the truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. For instance, many people think Andy Warhol’s art is creative genius while others think he was probably poking fun at the people who pay huge sums of money for art. I must admit, I have a copy of one of his famous pieces, a soup can, hanging in my upstairs hallway.

Anyway, do you really need to say anything to someone that will cause them to be embarrassed for the sake of honesty? Is dancing around the truth the same thing as telling a lie? Is it better to make up an excuse for declining an invitation instead of just saying, “I just don’t want to see that horrid movie or have dinner at that cheap restaurant?”

I tend to tell peace keeping lies at times. I see no need to have anyone irritated or arguing if I can keep trouble down. For instance, my telephone has caller ID and voicemail so I know if a call comes through whether I am here to answer it or not. Just yesterday my brother was here spending some time helping me with my mother. His ex-wife, whom he still dates, had called several times and my brother had not picked up the phone. He has excellent hearing too. When his ex showed up here at in the early evening hours and demanded to know why he hadn’t answered the phone, his response, without batting an eye, was “I never heard it ring and it didn’t show up on the phone.” It wasn’t on the main phone because he had deleted the entries but they were still listed on my office phone. I felt guilty knowing that he told her a lie yet I did not challenge him because I knew it would cause a fight between them. In my eyes, I told the lie myself because by not saying anything I backed up his lie.

I lie to my mother about the state of her health at times. I never tell her that she’s young and strong or that she will soon be running a marathon but I don’t tell her that only a miracle will keep her heart beating indefinitely. I dance around the truth to protect her because she trusts me, she relies on me, and because I can’t stand to see her frightened or worried if I can prevent it.

I’m not claiming to know what’s best for anyone else, I’m not God. I only follow my heart and trust my instincts to help me do the right thing. But is lying ever right?

Then there are the lies meant to manipulate and control, the lies teenagers often tell and some never outgrow. They come in late and weave a tale of events that kept them out the extra twenty-five minutes past curfew or they can’t account for money they’ve spent and tell you they ate six burgers, three fries, and two milkshakes from McDonalds. When you ask how they got there since they are not supposed to be in any vehicle with another teenager without prior permission, they tell you that somebody’s mother picked up all this food and brought it to them…even though her child wasn’t there and she had no way of knowing how many people were there and she works a minimum wage job to keep her own children fed. Sigh…

Lies, I have come to believe, fit some people like a second skin. They are good at lying, most of the time they don’t get caught, and they don’t feel a single pang of remorse after they tell a lie. For most of these people, if they get caught lying, they just tell another lie, usually one that gains sympathy or understanding, to cover up the first lie.

My final thought is that some people actually start to believe the lies they tell and without those lies, their lives would unravel. My palms get sweaty if I even hear that someone else did something wrong so there is no way I could tell a lie and believe what I’m telling. I’m sure most people are the same way. They don’t lie because while someone else might buy the line of bull, they don’t accept it themselves.

Do you lie?

© Dianna Doles-Petry


1 comment:

  1. I'll never look at lying the same again. Well written and every aspect of lying covered. You "still" amaze me, Dianna! And, my dear friend, this is great!


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