KD-ADS: Expanding Horizons

Cos thinking should never be stagnant...

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Lies, Liar, Lying, Big Lie, Small Lie, White Lie, Lousy Liar....

"Don't you lie to me!", says the mum to the child. "You are such a bad liar", says the lover to the spouse. "It'just a small white lie," protests the colleague to his/her co-worker. And Jennifer Lopez sings, "Don't you lie to me...."

It's an interesting world out there, particularly with the prevalence and magnitude of lies out there. Friends continually feel the stings of betrayal when they are lied to; lovers break up and fight because one of them just had to lie; colleagues shoot daggers at each other across the table, thanks to their liberal use of back-stabbing; bosses need to be licked in glory and fame which requires the subordinates' skills of a quick (and lying) tongue; corporations overblow the status and value of their products and call it "marketing"; yes, it's an interesting world out there but it almost makes it impossible to live, when every corner and every entity you meet seem capable of lying to you. It doesn't matter if you trust the person with his/her charming and benovalent personality, with the framed up qualifications which glitter and shine to back up his/her authenticity; you just know this person, no matter how squeaky clean, is capable of lying if they have to save themselves.

What is the essence of lying? Principally, it is an act of deception. A lie, even without referring to a dictionary, involves an act of deceiving, swindling and cheating someone. It is best defined by what it is (not): it's not truth. A lie is to twist, defraud, make up, distort, change the nature of what was once a truthful statement or event (but in most cases, feelings) and then to present that as it was truth. And obviously, there is one missing element in this equation: the assumption always is that lies are spoken with intent.

In very few societies, the act of lying could be conceived as a virtue. And in literally most moral, religious and ethical systems, honesty is forever extolled as a virtue. Better to be a honest man/woman than to be a lying rat. Further, the moral weight on this virtuous trait is extremely expensive and costly, for you will usually find that a heavy penalty must be paid for carrying out a lie. If it is in a marriage, divorce comes next. If it is between friends, typically the cracks truly never get fixed. If it is told in the court, it is amountable to spending time in jail. Yet despite these risks and the heavy punishment that trails behind them, we are confronted with a deep puzzling picture: Why do we still continue to lie?

Without asking you to spend a moment of your life in reflection, you may nevertheless agree that there may have been a few instances where you did lie. And even if I had to hazard a guess, it would most likely be during times of childhood, where perhaps you told a little lie to your parents so that you can get that new toy. You may also think of the times as a teenager, you lied to your parents about studying with friends when you were actually satisfying your raging hormones with kissing your teenage sweetheart. In looking back on these adventurous moments, you would probably brush them off as a sign of immaturity and that you have since grown up to be a person of stronger character and virtue.

Funny then it must seem if you are to be excused for these little acts of mishap, then why should we be so outrageously uptight and parochial to accuse with eternal condemnation that "Person A is a liar! Don't trust him/her!" or "S/he lied to me and I can't forgive him!"? If that's the case, your family members and those well-acquainted with you shouldn't be placing any faith in you being the truth-teller of the century. Are lies to be taken so literally that one is not only sentenced to a life of solitude but also judged to be a person of sinister and malevolent character?

Undoubtly, most people do lie with an explicit intent. Perhaps the intention to enjoy an activity without guilt or obstruction (like when your mother told you to stop seeing that boy); or perhaps to protect your image of yourself (Be happy driving that BMW and wearing that Gucci bag but come back to a poor-ridden family); perhaps to cover up your mistakes so that you can correct them (oh my, you better tell your dad that you have fixed the car's tyres when now you have to repair both the tyres and bumper) but you know what people say, don't you? That it doesn't matter why you lied, it dosn't matter if you did it to protect me, or to make things up, the fact of the matter is that you LIED.

Yet, are all sorts of lies so easily disapproved of? If they are, then why are still a majority of the lies out there being accepted? Just like when our "favourite" President of all time declares frivolous and ridiculous reasons and intents for invading another country, or when the politician continues to propagade better prosperity and wealth but you find your wallet getting emptier by the years, or perhaps when your boss presents a clean picture of the company's practice when you have seen and experienced all the dirt floating around the place. In fact, we continue to accept being lied to from our family members (who criticises you to your trustworthy siblings), friends (who don't really think you have the best taste in clothes), colleagues (who is desperate to ask for your help but thinks you are a doofus) and many others, all of which we know, if "real" honesty were to surface, the ugliness that has been lurking in the shadows are bound to appear. Oh yes, it doesn't become any more pleasant, does it, if someone is allowed to be brutally honest with you? It seems that only your idealistic thoughts and feelings will be crushed by the cold hard stamp of "reality bites".

This then brings the whole irritating problem into one full circle, doesn't it? To lie is regarded as a repulsive act, and something (that I rightfully) think should be condemned; but yet, to be honest and to be truthful also means facing the ugly realities of human relationships and nature, and also to realise that much of your cherished assumptions and thoughts are just wrong.

In writing this post, I am to recall the many instances where I have seen and experienced lies. Friends of mine have been lied, they have also lied; I see lies on a daily basis in my job; and there are also lies continually being perpetrated on the public. My own family members have lied to me, and of course I can't claim to be any more of a saint, I have lied in some occasions. But somehow, I have also found that the policy of being honest, despite suffering considerable consequences, a much enriching experience. The state of the world now is that there are too many people reaching harsh and overbearing conclusions based on lies, and not enough people recognising that honesty, for all its faults and ugliness, should continue to be promoted. Rather, lies continue to be accepted because deep down, as human beings, we have accepted that there are legitimate reasons to give a lie and retain them. What has become lost in the process, is that the negative responses from being truthful and honest should not be shunned away from; but rather to be embraced as a painful lesson in humility and acceptance.

Lying with a conscience. That's what we have always been doing. But it is far braver to be honest with a conscience and a heart.


  • At 3:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thought enriching and profound dissection of the societal relations.. your relate to in the Your last 2 para expresses my similar take.

    Lying is such part of human nature (dunno how true this claim is)that talking about it openly can be quite uneasy. Esp in effort not to be perceived as self-righteousness.

    I guess more people will choose not to lie, especially in larger organizations, if they are willing to give people of all levels more benefit of the doubt and forgive and restore again, esp aft being discounted or the brunt of people's insecure position or lack of. My biggest challenge is to take stride in unexpected/wanted reactions and responding to emotional expressions that does not shake so much confidence and with little understanding and support, spirals into deterioration in my character and personality. very disenchanted. to find the courage to be likeble again. with a new mission in life.

    for whatever agenda, your credible analysis of a large cross-secton of society's habits' and attitudes while keeping a neutral standpoint helps. Thanks!

  • At 1:38 PM, Blogger Trowa Evans said…

    Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your comment that you found it enriching.

    I would contend against the idea that people will prefer not to lie if they are in large organisations. My feeling and interpretation is that it actually becomes easier to lie in large organisations, as "lies" simply become personal interpretations. Further, within large organisations, it becomes harder to trace the source of a particular statement.

    Everyone has a challenge to want to be liked, but we also wish for someone to like us for who we truly are. Unfortunately, not all of us can claim to be saints, and hence the function and purpose to "lie" surfaces. Take stride in your own challenges and understand all of us face the same difficulties as well.

  • At 8:54 PM, Anonymous Eternal Hope said…

    It is very well written. It opens up my mind and wakes me up from my idealistic dream-world within my naive self-conceited myopic view molded persistently and rigorously by the masters of selective and half truths. A great effort. Thanks!

    Just wonder why many of you who can write and express so well to help awaken and educate the pathetic and pitiful unaware masses have stopped blogging?

    Is it because of a sense of helplessness, writers' fatique or a hidden pressure from an unseen hand?

    Is it the fate that liars shall rule this world with impunity under guise of self-proclaimed integrity with obvious hypocrisy?

    While it is true that action speaks louder than words, it is also heartening to note that the pen is mightier than the sword.

    For a miserable, pathetic and myopic frog-in-the-well like me, the heart yearns for silent voices of truth to enlighten and enliven the spirit, in the hope of better days to come, though come it might not for another generation or two.


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