Liar Liar

Truth

There’s a shift in his eyes. A sudden sense of discomfort in the air. You know. Who did you go with?

“An old friend.”

“What’s his name?”

Hesitation. Eyes move away from yours, a millisecond glance at the floor. Then back at you. “Benjamin.”

There. Right there it is. The name, giving birth to the deception. The mixture of emotion that erupts. There was fear, yes. Anger, a bit. Betrayal, growing. I guess disappointment is the most surprising of them all. The understanding that you’ve just been told an untruth, a falsity, right in your face. Apart from his bodily cues that give him away and that sixth sense of yours, armed with what you’ve seen with your own eyes, you otherwise would be fooled.

Perhaps the wisdom in our era is not how to detect a lie, but how to recover from one. You’re bound to be lied to. The world is no longer fit for total honesty. How do you break the news that you know the truth without causing the liar you love immense embarrassment? He shouldn’t have lied in the first place. But don’t we all tell little lies every now and then?

How one uncovers deceit gracefully, begins a meaningful discussion, directs both into the path of recover: that is the question.

Have you been lied to? How did you deal with it? Is your preference the truth, or blissful ignorance?

Other blog posts on deception: Fluency | I am a liar

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28 thoughts on “Liar Liar

  1. Trust is the single most important issue in any relationship for me, and I am big on honesty. I can overlook a small lie that doesn’t have a big impact (“No, I didn’t break your favorite vase, the cat must have knocked it over.”). If it’s something that makes me doubt you, though, like lying about who you were with/ where you were then that’s a game changer. I will confront you and get the truth.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Karen
      Very true, very wise. The little things (“Honey how’s the steak?” “Great!”) are fine to let go of. Places and people – red flag. We’re on the same page in that it was a big deal. Postscript: we had a sit down and sorted it out. I’m counting on there not being a second time. Maybe that’s being naive, but there’s enough good stuff going on to just throw it all away.

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    • No problem! Your poem got me thinking…
      I think we are lied to and lie ourselves all the time. But like Karen said above, how we deal with the lie also depends on how severe it is. Ideally we’d never have to face the situation, but in reality having some tools to help us deal with the aftermath is just as important.

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      • I agree with that, but I think that type of escalation is also present in many other arguments. Say a kid is playing ball and breaks a cup. He’d be in trouble, sure, but it’d be even worse if he breaks a window…

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        • Not really, I meant that the same type of escalation present in lying is also present in other negative aspects, e.g. violence, scolding others, etc. I meant that if the kid breaks the window, he’d have a harsher punishment than if he broke a cup, not necessarily in relation to lying.

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        • Who would be escalating the lie/situation? When you speak of escalation, were you e.g. referring to a liar escalating a lie in different situations? Or did you mean escalation in relation to the punishment, like there are different hierarchies of punishment for different severities of lies?
          I’m trying to understand your point – it’s an interesting one – and my understanding is this (while this may apply to other negative aspects, let’s take lying as an example since we were on this topic):
          Scenario 1) Kid breaks a cup. He feels he can confess to mom about the act because the punishment won’t be too severe. He’ll have to apologise and buy a new one for mom, which isn’t so bad. Outcome: he tells the truth and apologises voluntarily.
          Scenario 2) Kid breaks a window. He feels he can’t confess to mom because the punishment will be severe. Based on past experience of similar acts he will be grounded, made to skip dinner, and get a severe scolding. Which is pretty bad in kid’s eyes. Outcome: he blames the window breaking on Billy, an older boy next door. Further outcome: his mom finds out he’s lying because Billy’s mom had a chat with her. She’s outraged, now more so because her son lied to her – it’s about morality now, no longer a playful mishap. So on top of the usual punishment, mom ups it a notch and kid gets an extra beating from dad and won’t be given ice-cream for 6 months.
          Conclusion:
          It seems that ‘escalation’ in scenario 2 is two-fold (there’s no escalation in scenario 1): Kid ‘escalates’ the situation by lying. In his mind he is de-escalating, because to cover up means he can place the blame on someone else, thus deflecting responsibility from himself. But he in turn escalated the situation if his mom finds out. I guess you can say mom escalated the situation because she upped the punishment when finding out kid lied. But you can also argue that this is not escalation – the more severe punishment was merely proportional to the more severe indiscretion.

          While we’ve established some form of escalation is present in scenario 2, what is the take home message behind it? There are a few observations:
          1) it helps us understand the psyche of the liar: lying is done out of fear, a desire to shirk away from responsibility, and to avoid punishment*;
          2) whether someone confesses may depend heavily on the the severity of the punishment;
          3) the reason why the person being lied to thinks punishment must be administered is because lying breaks trust and is placed in the realm of morality. Lying is a wilful act.

          So perhaps next time, the person being lied to can contemplate tweaking his/her reaction and the corresponding punishment, so as to encourage the liar to tell the truth next time. As for the liars – it’s probably better to come clean as early as possible, because the consequences of lying are often more severe than telling the truth. Bottom line – lying about big things is bad (for relationships at least) – it erodes trust and breaks the foundation of healthy communication.

          *There are other reasons why people lie, like out of revenge or pure malice, but we’ll leave those out for the purpose of this discussion.

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        • I meant escalation of punishment in relation to the severity of the action. Probably should have worded it better since I jumped from the lying topic to just negative actions in general hahaha sorry.

          Well escalations of scenario 2 does rely on whether or not the child confesses, I do agree with how you’ve presented the argument and its conclusion. And yeah, it does feel like the punishment was scaled to the indiscretion, it also does break the trust of the kid with his parents and other children that Billy tells the situation of too.

          I would argue that children learn to lie out of fear initially, and once they figure out how to lie, they begin to use it for other intentions too. But that’s something else for another day :b

          All in all, I completely agree with your point and the reaction to lying must be handled delicately too.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. In a lot of ways, I think that not telling the whole truth is a tactic most people use to preserve their less important relationships (with coworkers or extended family for instance). And at the same time, our closest, most important relationships (with our spouse or partner for example) need complete honesty to be successful. I can see how this could be difficult for a person not skilled at navigating these choppy waters.

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  3. I’m a teacher, I get lied on a daily basis. And that’s just the management…

    I think it’s a hard one to say one way or another. If we all told each other what we felt all the time there would be blood in the streets.

    But yet, I speak from a place of ignorance. When my little one does lie to me, and I know it, then I may have more of an idea.

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    • You’re right, it isn’t always easy to draw the line. I don’t think we can be completely honest all the time. But when it matters you sorta know. That’s great, teaching. Management you mean like the principals and more powerful staff? They lie to teachers?

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  4. I think we all lie all the time, not even maliciously. Are these pants too tight? Oh no. You look fine.(What are you going to do? Tell her she looks ridiculous when she’s already at work.? Malicious lies or lies for deception are different. Cheating lies, if they can’t be worked out. It’s not always the right thing to trhow away a relationship for a one time mess up if you can really get past it, but if there is a pattern of deception, you can’ expect to have a future.

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  5. This is a great read, thanks for sharing! Its funny, I have been thinking of why I tell lies (usually small lies) and its mainly just so I do not get into trouble. But then I have been thinking about it again and realize that half the time I do tell those white lies, I need not have. I wouldn’t get punished or rebuked if I actually told the truth.
    And also, why do we fear the rebuke/punishment for something we have done? We had the courage to do it in the first place, so why lie now just so you can get away with it? Why not take responsibility for it and face the consequences? I don’t if I am making any sense 🙂

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    • Hi KayCee, that’s a great question: why we lie. I think you hit a major chord regarding fear of punishment. That’s perhaps a very strong reason why we lie. Other reaons are perhaps for selfish gain, to protect the feelings of someone else, or to avoid embarassment. As to why we do the act in the first place – I guess committing the act at the time versus the wisdom of hindsight could be very different things….so although the act may have seemed like a great idea in the first place (eg having an affair), hindsight and reality might prove otherwise…thus the difficulty in owning up after the fact. What do you think? Yes, you made complete sense!

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      • I agree with you on the act seeming like a good idea at the time and then realizing later what you did. I just wish we put more thought into the consequences that might arise before we actually acted. But we humans like to act first, ask questions later or think later. Thank you for responding

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        • Haha yes we do…now if we could all think a little about the consequences before acting the world would prob be in better shape! But that’s a lot to ask, as humanity will be humanity! Thanks for raising these issues 🙂

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  6. I prefer the truth, served gently when possible. When I’m lied to I tend to want to root out the reason for the lie. I want to know why. What is at the root of it? What is it about the way we relate that makes the other person feel that they need to lie to me? I think the best road to truth telling is to understand why the liar is lying.
    Are they feeling inadequate and lie to make themselves look better to me? Are they feeling threatened or afraid of my reaction to whatever the truth is? Are they trying to manipulate or use me by weaving lies to draw me in? Are they simply emotionally unstable and lie out of habit?
    The lie is never the problem, I’m a problem solver. 🙂

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