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Lies - The Good the Bad and the Ugly Print E-mail
Gregory Grove   
Thursday, 13 September 2007
Lies - The Good the Bad and the Ugly - Image by Irish Eyes (MorgueFile)

"O what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!", Walter Scott"None of us could live with a habitual truth teller; but, thank Goodness, none of us has to.", Mark Twain

There are many different types of lies and ways of lying; saying something that we know to be untrue, wording the truth in such a way as to create a false impression, and not correcting an untrue perception (silence can be as much a lie as speaking untruths). There are also white lies, black lies, innocent lies and malicious lies.

It is fair to say that the vast majority of lies are motivated by fear - fear of the others reaction if they knew the truth, a fear of loss. This could translate into fear of losing your job (if my boss knew that I forgot to…), fear of losing money, your house, your car, your relationship, the esteem of others, your own self-esteem… And of course we then lie to ourselves about why we needed to lie in the first place, we justify the deception.

Superficially, being a successful liar does give one an advantage. You have information that the other does not have. But at what cost to your conscience and peace of mind?

Very often, more lies are needed to cover the original lies and this is where a good memory is vital, unless one sinks into a secretive silence on certain topics for fear of saying too much. And of course, the one assumption we have to make before telling a lie is that the other person does not have access to the truth. This can be a dangerous assumption. According to a recent newspaper report, more and more relationships are breaking due to intercepted SMSs, emails and IM chats. The proliferation of “spy” software is a sad commentary on the levels of trust in general.

There are two possible consequences of a lie: either it is discovered or it is not discovered. If it is discovered, one of the consequences is that all other statements made by the liar will be viewed with a somewhat jaundiced eye. If it is undiscovered, it hangs over the liar like the sword of Damocles. Neither possibility is particularly attractive.
Not all lies are fear based or maliciously deceptive
Malicious lies are lies intended to harm another for selfish reasons or for revenge. The unconscious reasoning behind revenge (tit-for-tat) mentality is that if I can hurt you back, I will hurt less. Not terribly intelligent but very human.

However, not all lies are fear based or maliciously deceptive.

The lies parents tell their children about Santa Claus and the tooth mouse (tooth fairy) are designed to add wonder and excitement to a child’s life. Even here one needs to exercise caution – when a child one day discovers the truth about Santa he/she may feel betrayed.

There are also lies that are known to be lies by both parties but by tacit agreement they play the game together (“Does this dress make me look fat?” “No Dear”). This can in fact be a way of expressing love and esteem for the other.

Other lies can be intended to do good for the hearer or to encourage them (“Your dancing is really becoming fluid and graceful”). This type of lie boosts the confidence of the hearer and may well enable them to reach new levels of proficiency.
Sometimes a lie is judged to be the lesser of two evils
Casual lies are those we tell to people not very important in our lives simply because it is too much trouble to get into a discussion with them or to explain our actions (“I never got your email” rather than “I got your email but didn’t feel like acknowledging it”)

Sometimes a lie is judged to be the lesser of two evils. If a homicidal husband demands to know where his wife is you may well say “I don’t know” when in fact you do.

So is lying automatically a “bad” thing?

People like Saint Augustine had no doubt. His view was that we should be prepared to endure torture and even death for the sake of the truth. He felt that lies were a perversion of the gift of speech. Lies to yourself are the most difficult to detect
Friedrich Nietzsche suggested rather cynically that some people don’t lie simply because of the difficulty in maintaining the lie; they are just too lazy or incompetent to lie.

In the final analysis, your own conscience must be your guide. Only you can know your motives for telling a lie, but beware of lying to yourself about why you are lying. Lies to yourself are the most difficult to detect.

A final thought about lies: “This sentence is a lie.” Think about it…

Gregory Grove is a Reiki Master and a certified Life Coach who works in the Johannesburg area. You can learn more about him and the work he does at Contact him on 082 927 2300 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
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