I was with a friend yesterday and he told me this story. He has a friend who was once senior in the CIA. One night, over a beer, they were talking and, in the conversation, the American said that the world divided into two. There are those who are liars, cheats and thieves who, once identified in that category, are always there and then there are the rest.
I can’t talk much about cheats and thieves, but I have met my fair share of liars.
We all lie a little and before I get into big lies we can start with the small, teeny-weeny lies. We all lie a little bit and that is OK. These are known as white lies. A white lie is good, isn’t it? Not always.
I was amused by Marc Chernoff in his blog Marc & Angel Hack Life who gave us 15 of his best white lies, and here is a small selection.
It wasn’t me! – Because some things just aren’t worth taking credit for.
The table will be ready in 5 minutes. – Because it sounds a lot better than 15 minutes.
No, officer… I have no idea how fast I was going. – Because claiming ignorance is sometimes better than admitting to insubordination.
Yeah, I’ll start working on that ASAP! – Because telling you I have 10 things to do first would just irritate you.
I thought I already sent that email out. I’m sure I did. – Because telling you that it was a low priority and I forgot would probably hurt our relationship.
But are they white lies? I know someday soon there will be a broken toy or vase and young Bertie will look up at me and tell me that it wasn’t him.
Psychologists have looked at white lies and their effect on relationships. In 2014, Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at Oxford University, pointed out that, trying to cover up a misdeed or just to get your way isn’t likely to improve your relationships. This type of deception is known as antisocial lying. It is destructive and weakens the bonds between two people. On the other hand, lies told to help another person or to protect someone’s feelings tend to be good for relationships. Psychologists call this pro-social lying,
It seems to me that all of Marc’s examples seem to be drifting into that first category of antisocial lying. There is no clear-cut line, but the truth is fundamental to a well-functioning society.
Stretching the truth is a natural component of human instinct because it’s the easy way out. We all do it, so there is no reason to deny it.
Politicians and businessmen share a perception that the truth is a moving feast under the pretence that their on-going success is more important to the world than the precise truth. This brings us to today and the world of alternative truths and fake news.
If those that we allow to lead us can no longer differentiate the truth from a lie what do I tell my young grandson, Bertie, as he grows up?
There is only one way forward and that is, to tell the truth, always.
To finish, let me turn to Curtis Jackson and what he said, I hate a liar more than I hate a thief. A thief is only after my salary a liar is after my reality.