Blowing Smoke

Is a lie always considered to be wrong or are there degrees of lying that we, as a society, deem okay?


I grew up being taught that lying was wrong.  That lies always have consequences.  As I got older, I found out that there are times when even the truth has consequences.  Where do we draw the line?


In general, we all say that we want the truth, we expect to hear the truth, and we need the truth.  The truth, after all, will set you free.  However, what if it’s like Jack Nicholson says in A Few Good Men, we can’t handle the truth?  What do we do?


I believe in the truth, but that does not mean at times I have never told the occasional white lie; thus the dilemma.  How can I judge someone else for lying when I have committed the same crime?  Is it ever correct to lie?  I think before we can answer that, we need to acknowledge that there are varying degrees of lying.  Allow me to explain.


First of all, we have the little white lie.  These lies are told to basically avoid hurting another’s feelings.  So and so is wearing an outfit that does not flatter their body shape.  Upon asking my opinion, should I be brutally honest and tell them it does not look good or do I avoid hurting their feelings and say it looks fine?  Think of the times when women in general ask if an outfit makes them look fat or not.  Most of time, we tend to want to hear it looks great and more importantly validate that we are not fat.  But are we really prepared to handle the truth?  Just ask any guy who had to make a run for the roses so to speak because he was being forthright with his lady love.  I rest my case.


Next is protective lying.  Protective lying is when we want to spare someone from harm.  A parent can tell a child (a toddler for example) that the family pet went away, but in actuality it died.  The parent, realizing that the child would not understand what happened to the pet, lies to protect them.  Who can say if this lie is right or wrong?


Self-protection is another form of lying.  These are lies that are told to hide secrets (such as abuse or addiction for example) and are used as a defense mechanism to shield the person from emotional damage or perceived harm.  Addicts lie to themselves all of the time in order to protect themselves and their addiction.  A food addict can say he or she is eating healthy to stave others off with what the addict perceives as unnecessary concern.  In actuality it is conducive to more harm than good, but that is due to the reasoning for lying.  Ones reasoning thus becomes the faulty valve.


As you can see lying is now getting more complicated.  The ramifications are getting more costly and the risks are beginning to outweigh the reasons for lying.


We now begin to tell lies a little differently.  We reason it as not lying, but just not telling everything.  These are lies of omission.  For example, I went to a party…then I went home.  I left out what happened at the party (think of what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas scenario).  It is here we go from self-protection to covering our “bottoms” so to speak.  A gray area emerges.  We need to discover why we feel the need to omit information and our intentions for doing so.


A popular form of lying is called “blowing smoke”.  These are bold-faced lies and told by the liar for his advantage.  It is told when someone wants to appear better than they actually are.  Take a person’s resume for example.  Information is added to make the job-seeker look better qualified for a possible position.  I tend to think these people do this in order to boost their own ego.  They either have an over-inflated image of themselves or they have a low-self esteem and need to make themselves appear as what they deem is good enough for others.


The last type of lie I want to address is the pathological lie.  Here the person tells a lie seemingly well (according to the person telling it), yet seemingly obvious (to the person hearing it) at the same time.  Claims are made, stories are pitched, but buyers are few.  This is one of the trickiest types of lies.  The person telling the lie is walking in a potential mine-field.  They have to keep mental track of everything they said to make this lie sustainable.  Here is where a person can become a darn good actor or fail to become one.  These lies tend to re-shape the person telling them.  Their integrity and character are called into question and the loss that can be suffered as a result may be insurmountable.  How can someone come back from here?  How can they ever be trusted again?


I guess what this all boils down to is how you perceive yourself and how you want others to see you.  Do you want others to think you are trustworthy and honest or does it not matter to you?  For me personally, it matters.


I have made mistakes. I said a few things from time to time to protect others from being hurt and to protect myself from harm.  I have learned however from this.  I have learned that my self delusion (read:  running away from the issue at hand) made my life more difficult and I chose to be upfront with myself and others.  The load is still there on my back, but now it is not as heavy.  I still want to spare hurting the feelings of others, but they know me and know I will always think of their needs first. I just do not want to deceive them for any reason.  I have a hard enough time keeping up with my life as it is, adding lies on top of it is too much to handle.


Finally, just remember this phrase:  “Oh what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive” and the cost(s) involved.  The truth by the way is free and easier to maintain.

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