He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions.
The 2000’s saw the rising popularity of crime dramas as networks caught “CSI” fever. As the landscape became more and more crowded shows started to come up with a catch to differentiate themselves from one another. There generally is an eccentric lead hero whose genius tends to come out as an asshole, but has some deep seated issues stemming from their genius. From shows that followed the science of forensics, mathematics, Sherlock Holmesian deduction and combinations one of the shows that stood out to me was “Lie to Me” (2009-2011). I generally don’t watch TV, but was first interested as it starred Tim Roth a British actor popularized by starring in a number of Quentin Tarantino movies. While I can proudly say that I’ve never seen a single episode of CSI or it’s many spinoffs I’ve watched the entirety of “Lie to Me” several times. What interested me most was the science of microexpressions. It is being able to observe and interpret the tiny reflexes and signs that everybody makes when telling a lie or other emotions. While our words can say one thing our bodies can tell a completely different story.
“There is beauty in truth, even if it’s painful. Those who lie, twist life so that it looks tasty to the lazy, brilliant to the ignorant, and powerful to the weak. But lies only strengthen our defects. They don’t teach anything, help anything, fix anything or cure anything. Nor do they develop one’s character, one’s mind, one’s heart or one’s soul.”
As someone who used to tend to resort to lies whenever convenient, but have been trying to live as honest life as possible it was a fascinating subject. The first reason why I had decided to be as honest as possible was because I had been been the victim of a chain of lies that really screwed me up. The second was that I had done the same to someone else. Seeing it from both ends really changed my views on how much damage my own behavior could cause. The downside of becoming an honest citizen was that I wanted everyone else around me to be as well. Unfortunately, much of our daily lives are built on lies. In most cases they are harmless white lies, but unfortunately there are times when even those white lies pile up into a wall that eventually tumbles over.
The white lie tends to be the most damaging mainly because of the reasons for them. We tend to justify white lies as a way to protect someone else. You lie about what you think about someone’s clothes, their cooking or anything along those lines to protect someone’s feelings. The bigger gray lie is to protect not only someone else’s feelings, but to also cover your own shortcomings. If your girlfriends asks you what you’re doing you say that you’re working, while playing video games. Then there are lies simply for pure selfish reasons. Again there are levels to these lies from simple brags to make yourself look better in a job interview or date to the big lies that are done to cheat or swindle someone. In almost every case when caught in any of those lies most times it would have simply been better to tell the truth.
“She looks honestly upset, but then, I’ve learned that I can’t read her. The problem with a really excellent liar is that you have to just assume they’re always lying.”
― Holly Black,
A 2002 University of Massachusetts study showed that 60% of adults tell at least lie during a ten minute conversation with the majority of those liars telling at least three lies during that time frame. While the majority of people are lying the reasons for those lies vary. As some are simple white lies to try to please the listener while others are on the opposite end of the spectrum and lies to help improve the standing of the speaker. In most cases though when looking at lies you’ll see that most lies are both or at the very least that is what the speaker believes. In the case of the lie about video games another lie could have been to say ‘I’m not doing anything’, but by using ‘work’ or in some cases ‘exercise’ not only are we making the listener feel positive the speaker is also boosting themselves in the view of the listener.
The Biggest Dupe
We deal in deception here. What we do not deal with is self-deception.
The greatest lies are the ones the liar’s believe themselves. When it comes to maintaining a lie and making it believable the key is repetition. The trouble that liars fall into when repeating things over and over again is that sooner or later they will begin to believe the lies as well. The best way to make the lie a truth is to believe it yourself. Memory like a habit or reflex is based on repetition. Our strongest memories are based not only on the emotional strength of the moment, but how often we replay that memory in our heads. Our emotions tend to blur those memories every time its reproduced in our heads like a copy of a copy of a copy, with each subsequent copy changing bit by bit. For lies as we say them over and over, when we practice them in our heads as we emotionally want them to be the truth we start believing them as the truth.
“Lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than lying to others.”
The problem that arises in these situations is that the truth is lost. Any real chance for correction or repentance is lost as the lie becomes the truth, but does not change the fiction into a fact. Even when confronted with the real truth, with the facts the lie is already gone from our memory, rewritten over and over by a fantasy to become the truth. At this point it isn’t only our own need for self-preservation that keeps us maintaining the lie it is our own belief that it is the truth.
Lie to Me, Please
However, much we say we want to know and hear the truth the fact is that what we really want is to hear things that will make us feel better. We really want a world where there is no bad news, only good. The truth is that everyone lies, even the most honest person lies even if they don’t want to. In most cases I’ve seen with lies unless real deception is the motivating factor almost all lies are an attempt to make the gray areas a bit whiter. We tell the lie that things are ‘well’ to others and ourselves in the hopes that things will really be that way. These are not lies to hurt, but to help. In my desire for 100% truthfulness I realized that it ignored the fact that things could be better that things could turn around and hiding the truth for a moment could give us the hope and energy to make fiction into fact.
In the show “Lie to Me” the underlying story of the characters is that even though each one is superbly talented in seeing deception they are extremely sensitive to the truth and lies in their own personal lives. Just like everyone else they are desperate to trust and believe in those around them. Instead of digging into their own lies in search of the real truth they accept and understand that a certain amount of deception is not a bad thing. The ultimate level of trust is not that there are no lies or secrets, but the idea that those lies and secrets have some higher meaning.
It’s a fairly common trope for comedies where a girl or guy gets suspicious of their partner as they become evasive. There are a series of pratfalls as they try to follow them and find them cheating on them only to find out that they were planning an elaborate proposal, date or surprise. Trusting is not needing each and every single fact or secret revealed, but trusting on the intentions and motivations of others. Just like most things in life sometimes you need to zoom out and see the big picture as the little pieces are insignificant in the long run.
“The truth is always an insult or a joke, lies are generally tastier. We love them. The nature of lies is to please. Truth has no concern for anyone’s comfort”
Originally posted 2017-02-07 10:00:12.