Friday, April 26, 2013

lies, liars, and people who confuse rudeness with honesty

I had to take an additional writing test -- this one for the who apply to graduate programs -- in addition to that MSAT LSAT MCAT, or anything else of that nature.We had three topics from which to choose, and were required to use the testing center's laptops. The tests can be graded more quickly since they can be forwarded to graders immediately. As far as the old hand-written method of composing essays for tests,  graders are weary of attempting to decipher the test-takers' penmanship, and my particular university encourages the disallowance printing on tests reiquiring the writing of text (poetry or prose) because the head honchos here refuse to give up on manuscript.

About the actual topic. . . there were three choices. One  involved the electoral college, as in why it was instituted, why is or isn't it still practical in today's U.S.A., and what changes to it would the writer make if allowed? Another involved population control. Speaking globally, the world is in a precarious overpopulation situation. In the United States, however, while resources are still an issue, we're also in a situation where those who work, who pay taxes, and who function productively in society are reproducing at a far lower rate than those who do not contribute substantially to our work force. This is obviously not referencing the elderly retired population. What's the answer? Do we go for the short-term solution and improve American society by somehow encouraging the educated the wealthy or educated to have more children, or do we think more globally and try to control our popultion for the benefit of the Earth's resources and deal with the U. S.'s social problems in some other way? Option three involved aspects of lying. It asked for the writer's definition of lying, asked the writer to discuss lying in personal and professional settings, directed the writer to  discuss the absolutes as well as the gray areas of lying, and asked the writer to consider when or if lying might be appropriate or even the right thing to do. It asked the writer to consider the practical and ethical aspects of lying.

I chose option three --lying -- primarily because I felt I would write too much on the other topics. Lying is something I don't like to think about very much because it reminds meof the times I have lied and causes me to feel guilty.

I defined lying as simply propagating an untruth by word or action. The absolutes of lying can involve not telling the truth when one is under oath.  Another absolute aspect of lying would be telling an untruth or allowing others to reach the conclusion when doing so would cause blame that should belong to oneself to fall on another.  Any untruth that harms another, whether physically,professionally, financially, or by personal reputation, would presumably fall under the absolute category of ling.

Gray areas of lying of the not-so-noble kind might include passing around a rumor that one doesn't know to be fact. Even though one does not know for certain that the tale is untrue, neither does the person know with any degree of certainty that it is true.  If it's the sort of rumor that would damage a person's reputation, I would classify it as very dark gray at the lightest. If it's the sort of rumor that damages one's reputation and it turns out that it is true, while the telling of it may be neither necessary, nice, nor right, it's still not a lie, and wouldn't fall into a gray area where honesty is concerned. It's still a character issue, as why would an ethical and moral person need to tell a story in most instances, true or not, solely for the purpose of damaging a person's reputation?

Then come the trivial lies -- ones people call white lies --  intended to spare someone's feelings or perhaps spare someone from facing consequences when doing so wouldn't really cause  great deal of harm. Each person has to determine the parameters for himself or herself.  What if the lie is intended to spare someone embarrassment? Is one really obligated to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when reporting his or her weight at the DMV for one's driver's license? On the other hand, if the lie is to spare oneself from consequence, it's really not in the gray area for the most part. It happens all the time, and maybe little will come of it, but it's still not a morally upstanding thing to do.

What does one do when teaching honesty to children? If a parent frequently lies in front of a child, the child will eventually recognize that some of the things the parent says are untrue. The child will then learn either that the parent is a liar or that it is permissable to lie when it suits one to do so.

On the other hand, it is possible for a parent to teach honesty at the expense of tact. There is a difference between honesty and discourtesy. One young child I know is fond of pointing out overweight people she sees in public and loudly announcing her classification of the person as overweight. ("Fat" is the actual world she uses.) The mother gives a smile that appears halfway between apologetic and believing that her child's behavior is  cute. "I teach her to be honest, " she explains to the offended person. No, lady, you teach your kid to be rude. Just because a person, child or adult, believes something to be true does not mke it dishonest not to proclaim it loudly, particularly when it is offensive or will embarrass someone or hurt the person's feelings. I'm almost looking forward to kindergarten, when some other child decks the kid for something rude or hurtful she says.

In summation, it is [basically] always wrong to lie under oath. (There was an instance on a repeat of Judging Amy when either Amy or her mom lied on the witness stand to keep a kid out of trouble who killed a felon who was attempting to harm Amy's family. I thought it was justified.** Those instances are few and far betweeen,however.)  It is wrong to lie when your lie places blame that should belong to you or your friend upon someone else. It is wrong to lie about faithfulness to one's spouse or significant other. It is wrong to lie for business or financial gain, especially at someone else's expense. Similarly, it is wrong as well as illegal to lie in advertising. It is wrong to lie to damage someone's reputation. It is wrong to lie in any situation in which your lie will harm someone else for any reason.

If your friend is thinking of starting a  cupcake business and you happen to know that the cupcakes she makes taste like cow manure, you are not under obligation to volunteer that information, but, if asked, perhaps you would be doing the friend a kindness to suggest that her recipe or technique be altered a bit.  Your friend may not like hearing this, as his or her ego may be severely harmed by your reply. It's up to you to make a decision as to whether or not your relationship can withstand the truth, or whether you would prefer for your friend to be angry with you for awhile as opposed to going bankrupt due to a failed business venture.

What do you do if you know the spouse of a friend is being unfaithful? The answer here may depend upon multiple factors. How close to you is the friend? Are you equally close to the spouse?  Is the friend asking you point-blank, or is this simply information to which you are privy but the spouse is not? Bear in mind that if it is unsolicited information you're giving out, chances are that the bearer of bad news may receive the bulk of the blame. Are you prepared to lose the friendship over this?  Can you possibly persuade the spouse to tell your friend, possibly by telling the spouse that you will tell if the spouse has not informed your friend by the relatively short deadline that you give? Then, if the spouse doesn't tell, you can decide if you meant what you said or if you were bluffing.  On the other hand, if the friend finds out that you knew and didn't tell, you might be blamed for that as well. In some cases you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Where children are concerned, it's best not to lie in their presence, especially before they're past the concrete operational stage. Most likely they'll hear you making a phony excuse as to why you can't go somewhere or do something. If you're really lucky, they won't contradict you on the spot.  Be prepared with a really credible explanation to your child as to the reason for your words or you'll undo years of good teaching in one fell swoop.  It's also wise to teach children that keeping one's mouth shut when one sees someone with funny-looking hair or a glass eye is not akin to lying.  Being truthful does not require one to loudly announce his or her opinion about everything or everyone he or she sees. I know many adults who hav yet to master this concept.

Everyone lies. Some people are really good at it. Others aren't smart enough to be successful liars. Still others are too stupid to know when to throw in the towel on an attempt at a lie. When you're caught in the liquor cabinet and you've already consumed a drink or two, only an incredibly stupid or gullible parent is going to fall for the lie you make up about dusting off all the bottles because you're worried about the dust affecting someone's allergies. Similarly, if your parents attach a GPS that tracks your every move to your car, don't say you were at the library when you were at a party. Instead, park your car in the parking lot closest to the library and walk if it's close, or otherwise take public transportation to the party.

If your child is one of those obnoxious brats who loudly points out every physical difference he or she observes in anyone, be prepared for a lot of dirty looks and rude comments for the present, and stock up on ice packs and band-aids or consider home-schooling once the child reaches school attendance age.

Incidentally, what I wrote here was not what I wrote on my writing exam. I did want to pass, after  all, in the event I  choose to enter a graduate program at my present school.

I have only  about threemore hours of memorization ahead of me. Yippee!

** Judge Amy was fictional, by the way.


  1. It's funny people's predisposition to combat irrational behavior with irrationality, which I think can be said about most instances of white lies, petty fibbing. I think there are very, very rare cases that lying is actually beneficial, hence making it irrational to begin with. But in the real world, you're a moron if you think that everyone 100% of the time is telling you the truth. I fall into this trap with my mother constantly.

    Sometimes, it's as if life functions as a domino chain, and we're all reacting to everyone else, hence while this is happening we throw up the protective armor to shield ourselves from confrontation by fibbing, in circumstances where there isn't essentially anything tangible to gain, mostly battling out irrationality. In those instances where you're pretty much damned if you do, damned if you don't. For myself, I find that I will agree to something on the short term, just to avoid an argument about it with my mom, only to have the essential "truth" come out later when we do end up arguing over something even more idiotic. Because, I'm not a confrontational person, I lie to avoid it.

    It's interesting how the black and white does fade into gray, and how it becomes more difficult to determine, specifically on a day to day life basis, and putting aside the high profile, lying under oath trouble.

    You picked a great topic, I'm sure we could go on about this subject for hours!

  2. What i find most bizarre is the habitual, compulsive types of liars who lie when the truth would sond better, perhaps just to keep thier lying skills sharp. Some may beleive themselves, or may have lied so much that they forget which is the truth and which is the lie.

    my mom works with a mid-30's lady who is one of those people who is not smart enough nor possesses a sufficiently good memory to lie, yet she does it continually anyway, and constantly gets caught up in her tangled web. She's my mom's firnd's assistant, and sometimes my mom's friend just goes on about her business and lets it go in one ea and out the othe, although she saysit's an insult to the intelligence of all of those who work together to be expected to pretend they're falling such nonsense. Sometimes mymom's friedn takes the bait and says, "Wait! Didn't you say just yesterday that . . ."She says it's a lost cause, though. this lady couldn't or wouldn't tell the truth for 24 hours straight if you handed her a check for a thousand dollars and told her she could cash it at the end of the 24-hour period of she told no falsehoods during that time. Even if nothing compleeled her to lie, i.e. reason for being late for work, etc., she'd still make things up. Most of her lies seem to stem from delusions of grandeur. Either way, my mom's friend says it's turning her [my mom's friend] into an old woman one day and one lie at a time just listening to the senseless drivel.

    My personal issues with lying are usually things I could avoid. Now that I'm no longer a sneaky minor who mustlie to my parents about where I've been and what I've been doing, the issue usuallly is when someone who has no business knowing a particular thing about me (in person; it would be terrribly easy to avoid online) asks me something, and for some stupid reason I feel as though I must give them an answer. It would be better to respond with "Why do you ask?" or "Why do you feel you need to know?" than to lie about it, but I usually end up lying instead.

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