Telling truth about lying
Thursday, August 21, 2014
OK, so here’s the thing: I’m a person who’s first inclination is to lie. It doesn’t matter what it’s about or what the question to me might be, I just always jump to the lie.
For instance: At some point, my aunt gave me a key to her home in Florida knowing that I would be going there before she. But I can’t find the key. But I don’t want to tell my aunt that I can’t find the key because she will treat me to a diatribe on the general carelessness, or stupidity, of men who can’t be trusted not to lose small metal objects.
So my first thought was to get Cousin Nancy to secretly find me another key to the aunt’s Florida house, but it’s been two weeks and Cousin Nancy has proven useless, except she has sent me five books, including “The Alexandria Quartet” that is brilliantly written but ... never mind.
So, Nancy having failed, it’s come down to this: I’m going to have to cop to my aunt that I can’t find the key.
I know what you’re wondering: If my first inclination is to lie, why am I going to cop to her? Because the only alternative I’ve thought of (so far) is to claim that I never got the key which, of course, is a lie and in keeping with my first inclination. But I HAVE to reject that because it would mean, essentially, accusing my aunt of never having given it to me because when I say I never got it, she will immediately fire back, “I gave it to you,” and my only possible response would be, “No you didn’t.” And that would be essentially accusing HER of lying and that is absolutely NOT her first, nor even her 17th, inclination.
And I love my aunt and don’t want to accuse her of ... well, really, of anything. Besides, nobody would believe me if I inferred that Catherine had lied, so it won’t work. “Catherine, lie? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. You’re a moron.”
I was thinking, though, that there might be a way I could cut short the diatribe, perhaps by saying, “Hey, I told you the truth about the key when my first inclination was to lie.”
There is danger there, however. Suppose she asks, “Why didn’t you lie?”
At that point, I could say, “Well, gee, I’m not a liar, you know,” which would be a lie. I could say, emphatically, “BECAUSE LYING IS WRONG!!!” which would be a lie, at least if I said it, maybe not if you did, or I could tell the truth, to wit:
“Because I couldn’t think of a lie that would fly.”
Man, I do not like the truth.
Then I came up with the PERFECT sort-of lie. See, I wasn’t feeling well and Catherine knew that, so I decided to play the Little Sick Guy card and I was going to say:
ME: I lost the key to the Florida house.
CATHERINE: I knew it. I knew you would. Ugh. Men.
ME: Yeah, but it was because I’m sick. I’m so sick I couldn’t concentrate on the key. For all I know, I swallowed it accidentally and that’s why I don’t feel well.
CATHERINE (I would hope): Oh, dear, I’m sorry. You are forgiven. Here’s another key.
In the end, though, I didn’t have to do any of those things because Cousin Nancy came through and secretly handed me a key that I IMMEDIATELY stashed in my suitcase which I hope to remember to take to Florida, thus all is well.
And, yeah, I get it: Lying is wrong. Theoretically. And OF COURSE I would teach children around the world that lying is wrong but, I don’t know, my parents were always so upset when I told them uncomfortable truths (sometimes even about them, but especially about me) that I found that lying was better. Indeed, there were times when I was telling the ABSOLUTE SCREAMING TRUTH and my father didn’t believe me, anyway, so what was the point?
Example: One night, I’d gone with a friend to audition for a part in a local production of “A View from the Bridge.” I was 16. I thought the auditions were at the playhouse but they turned out to be at the Presbyterian church. So, because my father always wanted to know where I was (he said it was because he worried about me), I called him and told him that I was not at the playhouse, but at the church. Truth was told.
In the middle of the night, I awoke to hear him telling my mother that he knew I had been lying.
OK, two questions:
1. Why the heck would a reasonably sane person lie in that situation?
2. Why should I ever again bother to tell the truth?
That doesn’t mean I never told the truth. I often did, but when I did, I knew there was at least a chance it wouldn’t be believed anyway, so if it seemed better to lie, well, I lied. Define better? Sure: If the advantage accrued to me.
It would seem, then, that I learned to lie, but I wonder sometimes if lying is inherent. And then I wonder if I wonder if lying is inherent so that I can obviate my guilt for lying. I have a circular way of thinking.
Anyway, as things turned out, I only had to lie to my aunt through omission which, if you were raised Catholic, can radiate you with guilt because, after all, the church did recognize sins of omission as, well, sins. Maybe not mortal sins, but still ...
Someday, though, I will tell Catherine the truth for one reason and for one reason only: I trust her to believe it.
Indeed, I trust her, period.