We all do it in one way or another. The differences lie (pun intended) in the consequences of the lie, the recipient of the lie, and the intent to which the speaker of the lie aims to mislead (consciously or not), and of course, my favorite, the reason for the lie. And of course … as you might have guessed, the need we’re getting met when we lie?
So exactly what need or needs ARE we getting met when we lie? The answer is that we use lies to increase the chance of us getting ANY given need met. A lie is the verbal support we give, or the justification we give to help us get a need met.
A word about institutions: because governments and other institutions don’t have needs (see my post Do Governments Have Needs?), that leaves only living things as having needs. Therefore the lies are told by the PEOPLE in those institutions, not by the institutions themselves.
Note: If you’ve been following along, you know that needs are the ownership AND responsibility of living beings … and for the purposes of this blog, humans. Note: emphasis on the word “RESPONSIBILITY“!
Another fact behind lying is that it’s easier to tell a lie than it is to tell the truth. We do this when we tell someone something we think they want to hear (Wow!, that new hairdo looks so cute on you! … a social media favorite of mine), or to spare them an unpleasant or hurtful feeling which would come as a result of hearing the absolute truth as we see it … (no, I didn’t see your wife at the bar with anyone else last night).
By labeling some of these “common or less serious” lies as “white lies” we forgive ourselves and others for telling them. It’s ok to tell a white lie … usually. What’s a black lie? What’s a grey lie?”
We all know the popular children’s meme: If you cross your 1st two fingers and hold them behind your back, it’s ok to tell a lie. We’ve even institutionalized lying about lying 😉
Let’s look at some commonly heard lies. (I’ll dig into the specific needs being met, and by whom in a later post on lies.) The justifications (reasons) are easy to see, the needs being met, not so clear. The following are considered “socially acceptable”.
“Honey, go to bed early because Santa is coming to give you a present tonight.”
“The dog ate my homework”.
“I have no money to lend you”.
“The check’s in the mail”.
“Cigarette smoking is not harmful to you”.
[claimed by advertisers and professionals during the time period 1789-2003 … but as recent as 2006]
“That dress looks great on you dear”.
“You don’t look a day over 25”.
“Yes Mom, I’m still a virgin … sheesh!”
“I didn’t see that stop sign officer!”
“We have no apartments for rent Mr. & Mrs. Chin”.
“I wasn’t close enough to him to make out any features”.
“I donated $5000 worth of furniture to charities last year”.
“I’m sorry, we found a candidate who is more qualified for the position”.
“The economy has taken a downturn, and your retirement funds are all gone”.
“Mr. Smith is a Communist sympathizer … we have documented proof!”
“Those <Martians> are inferior, and a scourge on our planet. They need to be eradicated”.
“We are not building nuclear weapons”.
“We know there are weapons of mass destruction hiding there”.
“If you follow the rainbow, you’ll find a pot of gold at the end”.
Note: This reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode titled, The Whole Truth (1961) about a used car. Every new owner of that car was compelled to tell the exact, honest truth … no consequences considered.
Our society has come to expect that if a lie is justifiable (enough), if the end justifies the means, then it’s ok to lie. It’s the reason for the lie that makes it ok to tell the lie. Or in other words, if the <perceived> need is important enough (to someone, not necessarily us), the lie is ok … or forgivable at worst.
I don’t want to undervalue the importance of the justification. We need to tell lies … or more importantly, to not always say the absolute truth. Prudence is the order of the day. Lies do have an important place in our society. My goal is simply to dig into the need being met by the telling of the lie and to gain a clearer understanding of that need. Whether or not the lie was required … well that’s up to each of us and our individual value systems isn’t it?
Mother Theresa: “I feel fine today”.