The Lies We Live

Photo by Ruby Glimmer from Flickr

Photo by Ruby Glimmer from Flickr

Lies are woven into our lives from early childhood to the end of our lives.  They are so pervasive that many go unnoticed and barely cause a flutter.  Certain lies are so common, as a matter of fact,  that we may not even classify them as lies.

Here are the most common culprits:

Oxymorons–a combination of contradictory or incongruous words

My son swears that military intellgence fits this category. The more cynical among us would also add business ethics and personal computer. But most people would more readily place pairs like white darkness, silent scream and jumbo shrimp on this list.

Euphemisms–an agreeable word used in place of an offensive one sometime to spare feelings, other times to deceive.

rest room for toilet
working girl for prostitute
pass on for die
Nazis termed relocation camp for concentration camp

Weasel words–words used to evade or retreat from a direct statement

Saying the Corvette is virtually handmade means it’s not handmade, since virtually means not in fact.

Doublespeak–a type of euphemism that is uttered in bad faith, deliberately constructed for political purposes, thus usually being used by the government or politicians

Predawn vertical insertion –used by the Bush administration to refer to the invasion of Granada by parachutists

Wastewater conveyance facility — sewage plant

Ethnic cleansing–Serbian government’s term for forcibly removing and massacring Serbia’s Muslim population

This week we’ve explored deception in many forms and situations. It’s clear that lying at all levels is a prevalent part of our lives and that all of us are culprits as well as victims of it.

The good thing about knowing better is it’s the first step toward doing better. Perhaps the knowledge you gained this week about lies can help you avoid deception in all of its forms. Let me know what you think.

First published 2-15-08

Is All Fair in Love?

by dj itch flickr

Hugs 🙂 by dj itch on flickr

We love to lie to the ones we love. Deception is more prevalent in romantic relationships than anywhere else. From “No, you don’t look fat” to “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” the lies in relationships abound.

Missouri psychologist Dory Hollander reported in her book 101 Lies Men Tell Women, that 85% of college students interviewed said that they had lied to their partners about indiscretions.

A few findings from the Top Ten List of the research on lying in romantic relationships are

  • Deception is an inherent and necessary aspect of our close relationships
  • Most deception is successful because it never gets detected
  • We save the biggest and most serious lies for the ones we love

If the concept of lying in relationships is broad enough to cover exaggerations, what do we make of love letters and poetry? Most of us would stop short of calling them lies.  In fact, we long for these exaggerations.

Who wouldn’t want to receive a letter like the one Elizabeth wrote to Robert Browning?

Sonnet #43, From the Portuguese
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints!—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Go here if you’re up to taking some relationship quizzes.

Most of us enter marriage with high expectations, and yet half of the marriages in the USA end in divorce.
What leads to successful relationships and marriage?

After studying 168 couples from their wedding days through thirteen years, Huston, a pioneer in the psychology of relationships, launched the Processes of Adaptation in Intimate Relationships (the “PAIR Project”) and made the following discoveries:

1. Many newlyweds are not head over heels in love.
2. Couples who do begin their relationships in romantic bliss are more prone to divorce because it’s just too difficult sustaining that intensity.
3. Couples whose marriages last longer don’t have the “Hollywood-style” relationships, but are fairly lackluster by comparison.
4. Couples who continue to love and have affection for each other last longer in spite of any interpersonal conflicts that arise.

So there you have it. A few different views on love, deception and lasting marriages. What do you think?

Lies, Damned Lies and Our Way of Life

Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. ”

Where does that place advertising and politics? We all know advertisers lie. We expect them to lie.

We may act appalled when one of their lies is uncovered, but we know full well, for example, that no safe product will cause us to lose 10 lbs in three days. That’s why that disclaimer (that regulations force them to provide ) written in fine print races across the bottom of the screen during weight loss TV commercials. Some argue that we are co-conspirators with advertisers since we allow ourselves to be deceived.

I agree. We so much want to believe that we allow ourselves to be deceived.

Just as we suspend our belief to enjoy a movie, many of us suspend our belief for sustained periods of time.

Advertisers are the most clever liars of all because they find out what we want most and promise to give it to us. Even when their lies are discovered, we forgive them and buy their products again and again.
We all seem to want things that are fast, cheap, and good.

The truth is that we can only have two of these at a time. If something is fast and cheap, it’s not likely be good. If it’s cheap and good, it won’t be fast. And, if it’s fast and good, it definitely won’t be cheap. And yet, we keep hoping for all three.

Politicians are not as clever as advertisers at lying. Like advertisers, they try to tell us what we want to hear, but they don’t have as much money and time to craft their deceptions. So, they take the short cuts of evasion and distraction.

There is no law forbidding politicians from lying. It’s up to us to determine to believe, confirm or discover the truth of what they say.

Before we look down on advertisers or politicians for lying, you must know that lying is a common part of our everyday life. We are socialized to lie from an early age, and sometimes punished for telling the truth and rewarded for lying.

As a child, for example, it was in my best interest to tell my mother what she wanted to hear, such as when she inquired “Are you calling me a liar?” rather than to tell her the truth that she was lying. Because I lied to her, I lived to tell you this story.

What’s your take on deception? Tell the truth now.

What Color Are Your Deceptions?

woodlandwithvineA lie is commonly defined as saying something we believe is not true with the intention of deceiving someone. All lies are not equal, as evidenced by the categories in which we place them.

Black lies are at the bottom of the heap. Their intent is to deceive even if it causes damage and harm to others, such as when Susan Smith, a white woman, killed her two sons and said a Black man did it.

White lies are at the top of the pile of lies. Their intent is ostensibly to spare someone’s feelings, such as saying you won’t be able to attend a party that you just don’t want to attend.

Gray lies are those that fall in between, but generally aren’t thought to intentionally bring severe harm to others. Saying “Good.” in response to “How are you today?” when you really don’t feel good.

Literature and religious doctrine are full of references to lying and its severity.

St. Augustine believes lying is always a sin. Some lies are more sinful than others. Most find life very hard to live within the limits of always being truthful. The Catholic Encyclopedia states

St. Augustine held that the naked truth must be told whatever the consequences may be. He directs that in difficult cases silence should be observed if possible. If silence would be equivalent to giving a sick man unwelcome news that would kill him, it is better, he says, that the body of the sick man should perish rather than the soul of the liar. Besides this one, he puts another case which became classical in the schools. If a man is hid in your house, and his life is sought by murderers, and they come and ask you whether he is in the house, you may say that you know where he is, but will not tell: you may not deny that he is there.

St. Thomas Aquinas, on the other, hand takes a softer view. He believes all lies are sinful, but some are more mortal than others. He classified lies into three categories:

• officious–a lie that does nobody any injury; an excuse
• jocose–saying something for amusement
• malicious–a lie that does harm

Some folks believe that the prohibition against lying is primarily Christian, citing that Jewish law allows lying for household peace and Buddhism allows that lying may not be a sin.

In an article by Robert W. Mitchell we learn this about Emily Post. Although etiquette expert Emily (Mrs. Price) Post claimed that etiquette requires “honesty and trustworthiness in every obligation” (Post, 1945, p. 2), she offered this advice for the unhappy visitor:

If you go to stay in a small house in the country, and they give you a bed full of lumps, in a room of mosquitoes and flies, on a floor over that of a crying baby, under the eaves with a temperature of over a hundred, you can the next morning walk to the village, and send yourself a telegram and leave! But you feel starved, exhausted, wilted, and are mosquito bitten until you resemble a well-developed case of chickenpox or measles, by not so much as a facial muscle must you let the family know that your comfort lacked anything that your happiest imagination could picture–nor must you confide in any one afterwards (having broken bread in the house) how desperately wretched you were (pp. 428-29).

What color are your deceptions?

How Tangled are the Webs You Weave?

spiderweb by moonjazz Flickr
Photo by moonjazz on Flickr<

“Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive.”
Sir Walter Scott

Although I was less than thrilled to give up that whole Saturday to attend Traffic School, I must admit it was entertaining.

The teacher was a retired deputy sheriff who created an informal environment and kept things fun by telling self-deprecating jokes and gently ribbing attendees. He took away any pressure we might be feeling by assuring us that we would all pass. He insisted on participation by encouraging the class to ask questions about the law.

Out of 100 attendess, at least half of the class seemed to be 17 to 19 year-olds. The funniest parts of the class were the questions from teenagers retelling scenarios where they tried to portray themselves as innocent and win sympathy if not exoneration from us.

During the discussion about probable cause, one 19 year old asked if it was legal to stop someone for appearing to be drowsy. The teacher asked him to give more detail. He said one morning he was driving at 6 AM and a cop pulled him over for appearing drowsy.

The teacher inquired, “Why were you driving at 6 AM. Were you headed home from an all night party?”

The kid said with a straight face ”No, I just got up one morning at 6 AM and started driving.”

The teacher tried to get to the bottom of this, “Where were you going?”

“Nowhere,” the kid raised his eyebrows, “I was just driving.”

The teacher repeated what the kid said: “So you just got up at 6 AM, went to your car, and started driving?”

“Yes,” affirmed the kid with raised eyebrows. The class burst out laughing.

The kid gave up trying to convince us.

The teacher assured us that appearing drowsy is probable cause for a cop to pull you over.

This episode got me to thinking about the lies we tell. Stay tuned for more on lies.