Lie (noun) – a deliberate untruth
A lie is a false statement to a person or group made by another person or group who knows it is not the whole truth, intentionally. (information courtesy of Wikipedia.org)
“Oh what a tangled web we weave, / When we first practice to deceive!” (Sir Walter Scott,
Marmion, Canto vi, Stanza 17.)
I spent some time thinking about lies and lying this week. We, as humankind, lie. Some of us do it rarely, some of us dabble in it occasionally, and some of us make it a recurring habit. In general, most of us lie at some points in our lives, for differing and various reasons. A familiar childhood phrase would often run through my head as I researched and read up on this tricky blog topic – “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” I’ve sometimes wished that a liar’s pants really would catch on fire from time to time! It would be a lot easier to pick the liar out of the crowd that’s for sure.
I must also add that I am absolutely fascinated by the number of sub-categories or pseudonyms that one can find under the simple word ‘lie’ on Wikipedia.org. Don’t even get me started on the exciting psychology explaining it all! So, while I knew that writing a blog post on the topic of lying would be tricky, I didn’t realize how complexly interesting it would be as well.
There are many different classifications of the concept of lying ranging from the barefaced (or bald-faced) lie (an obviously lie to those hearing it) to a bluff (pretending to have the capacity or intention one does not normally possess) to bullshit (used to make the audience believe that one knows far more about a topic feigning total certainty or making probable predictions). There are many other ‘types’ of lies: big lie, bad faith, contextual lie, emergency lie, exaggeration, fib, half-truth, etc. Regardless of their name or exact definition, lies can be used to protect or promote oneself, to protect or damage others, and even to cover up more lies. Lies can also be used to hurt, betray, and punish others, and, sometimes, lies can even be used without any reasoning or explanation at all.
I revisited my childhood once again, still chanting “Liar, liar, pants on fire” in my head, and pulled out the children’s novel The Adventures in Pinocchio, written by Carlo Collodi. Pinocchio, a wooden puppet created by the woodcarver, Gepetto, always dreamed of becoming a real boy. He was also prone to telling lies and fabricating stories for various reasons. Because of Pinocchio’s tendency to lie, his character has often been used as a warning to young children not to lie or else their nose will grow like Pinocchio’s. (information from Wikipedia.org)
(image courtesy of Google images)
It is not only young children who lie, however. The embodiment of the character of Pinocchio is actually quite prevalent in present day society. The modern day Pinocchio often takes on differing forms in our complicated world.
We all may know a Compulsive Pinocchio, the liar who, when he starts to lie, lies out of habit and just can’t seem to stop. Perhaps he or she can’t help themselves – one lie leads to another and to another and to another, leading to the common metaphor of a “web of lies” and the “tangled web we weave” reference. Lying may be the normal, reflexive way for the Compulsive Pinocchio to respond to questions. It may be stress, panic, or even just a general disregard for being honest with others that leads a Compulsive Pinocchio to be dishonest with others, especially with him or herself, as telling the truth is very awkward for him or her. While the modern day Pinocchio doesn’t have the tell tale nose growing feature, it is sometimes difficult to discern his or her lies from truths.
Some modern day Pinocchios can be pathological liars, (with close similarities to the Compulsive Pinocchio); those who lie about almost every aspect of his or her life and believe the lies they tell, often in an effort to boost their self-esteem. The Pathological Pinocchio feels the need to lie about everything from how much was spent on dinner last night to the last time the dog was taken for a walk. For the Pathological Pinocchio, every segment of communication has “strategic meaning positioned for his or her gain”. (info with help from wikiHow.com) The Pathological Pinocchio is a hard individual to deal with. One is never certain which lie spoken is the closest to the truth. The modern day Pinocchio is a master of the skill of lying. He is able to lie so convincingly, so sweetly, so charmingly, that one cannot help but to believe him. He lies so well that he even believes his own lies.
There is also the Sociopath Pinocchio, someone who lies continuously to get their way with little or no concern for others. The Sociopath Pinocchio is goal-oriented with little respect to the rights and feelings of others. The Sociopath Pinocchio is often charming and charismatic as well, and uses his or her strong social skills in order to manipulate others self-centeredly. Sociopath Pinocchios lack empathy for others. They will lie and step on whoever they need to in order to get what they want. Modern day Sociopath Pinocchios can easily become involved in criminal actions and violence as well.
Regardless of the type or name of lie, or the version of the modern day Pinocchio we may encounter, it remains true that lying is often the easy part. It’s the detecting the lies, catching them, even seeing through them which is hard. But, there are some truths which we can hold onto when it comes to deception and lying: 1) People will never stop lying; deception will never end. 2) There is no sure-fire way to detect lies. Even lie detectors cannot completely acknowledge the diversity of lies. No one is right all the time about whether another person is lying. 3) Lying has and will continue to be a cultural lament throughout the ages.
My final thought – I don’t think all lies are bad. I’m not sure that I would really want to know how other people feel about me or them to know how I feel about them all of the time. I’m not sure that I would always want to know what other people really think of me in every situation I am in. There are lies which are reassuring (“Yes, you’re hair looks great even if you didn’t want it cut that short…”) and there are lies which are horrible and unjustifiable in any way, but I’m not sure that any of us are ready to embrace the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, always and forever. So I think we will just have to keep doing our best in using good judgment to detangle the webs that are woven, to accurately assess the Pinocchios who we encounter in our lives, and maybe, just maybe, one day my wish will come true and I will be around to see Pinocchio’s pants actually catching on fire.
(Researched from the following sources : thetruthaboutdeception.com, Wikipedia.org, and Google dictionary.)