I guess it started with my mother… oh, what a beginning of a story, isn’t it? 🙂
Well, it did! She’s the one who always caught me if I was lying. It’s a mother thing, apparently, and it doesn’t seem to have stopped others, but with me, well, I just got it that it’s soooo not worth it so I stopped lying. So far so odd.
Lying is regarded as a sin even when doing so can have good results, because the intent is to deceive. And from St Augustine to current propaganda we have made lists of different ways of lying. We have also made quite a science of how far we can go before what we say is considered a lie. But wait, there’s more 🙂
You see, you don’t just stop lying with impunity, as anyone who has ever watched Liar Liar or heard of True Thomas realizes. Much of what our world prizes (society to begin with!), relies on not telling all the truth all the time to all people in all situations.
Of course, we can only speak as truth what we know or believe, so deception is possible even when the intent is not there. Truly, it does not take many words to speak the truth, it’s just that the path there is full of potholes!
But a person who will not lie must find other ways to live with people. Because when a child says something true but tactless people laugh. An adult doing the same is actively isolated and is sometimes at risk.
First port of call is, of course, silence. Praised as gold to speech’s silver, silence can go a long way towards allowing you not to lie but also to retain some place in your society. But it is ultimately boring and difficult to maintain and it’s not foolproof, either, you can by your silence allow a deception to continue that may have tragic consequences later on.
Avoiding, evading and ommitting the truth all require juggling skills, a terribly good memory (kind of like lying!) and have a middlish efficacy, even when you’re good at them.
Deflecting the conversation can work, especially combined with minimization and omission of truth. That’s the telling some of the truth to some of the people some of the time, while being mind-bendingly cautious of your words, your audience, the possible consequences and a myriad other things.
I did all of the above at one time or another, and only after years of practice. Having been born with no tact at all, but with a human centred belief system and profession, it wasn’t always easy. I feel the best when I can tell the truth and actively try to put myself in situations where I don’t need to use the above mentioned stratagems. As Heinlein would say, between being kind and being truthful, he would choose kindness. I have tried to learn how to tell the truth kindly, that’s as close as I can get.
It seems that getting around lying requires a good workout for your moral compass and judgement, careful selection and occasionally, skills to sneak past your own conscience – never an easy feat!