I hear and read this statement frequently. There is truth to this statement about lying, but I don’t think it is absolutely true. I do believe the majority of people tell intentional lies sometimes- and that some people tell lies very frequently (and not all of them are even politicians!) – but I also am certain people exist who cognitively are either not capable of intentional dishonesty, or else have extreme difficulty being that way. I have difficulty committing outright intentional deception. I can do it- mostly when I feel threatened in some way- but usually I have to tell myself I’m playing a character or a game or something. I also find it difficult to think that a “white lie” is so completely different from other lies. I know it’s meant to be different, yes. But not the same way the general public just seems to automatically get it. (And what exactly is “white” about it anyway?)
Here’s a thing I feel is true about lies:
I believe intent must be present for a lie to be told.
If you ask a child, “Where did you go on your vacation?” and the child says, “I rode to the moon on the back of a rainbow striped flying unicorn!” I would call that a fantasy rather than a lie. The intent behind it is far different than if the child says they did not throw that rock through the window when in fact they did.
And a kid telling a fantasy story is not the only thing people sometimes call a lie that really, by intent, is very different.
Misunderstandings can be interpreted as lies.
I remember one time when I was a child, I got a painting kit similar to a paint-by-numbers, in that the image had pre-printed outlines, but no numbers were given. You had to understand from looking at the image on the box which color of paint went where. For an adult artist, yes, that would be super easy, but for a child in elementary grades not nearly as easy. I also did it without asking an adult what they thought should go where. I wanted to do it myself! Look grown up! When I finished, the painting did not look like the image on the box, but it was recognizable that the picture was of kittens. I was really proud of it, and showed one of my dad’s friends who had come over, who asked me if I did it all by myself. Interpreting this as meaning “without adult help and without the usual number guide”, I happily said “Yes!” But my dad interpreted it from his adult artist perspective of creating the entire piece right from the start of composition, and said, “Come on, tell the truth.” I was then confused, and don’t recall exactly how it transpired from there. I don’t know if I cried, or what. I know what I meant was eventually clarified, and I was told it’s OK, since I didn’t mean to lie, but that this was not, in fact, how adults defined “doing it all by myself”. So it turned out OK, with only some embarrassment. But the point there is, what the truth was depended on how the question was interpreted.
If the world is full of liars, it is also full of truthful people. In most cases, these will actually be the same people on different days, or at different times on the same day.
Know what else happens?
People forget things. Confuse things.
If you are sure you bought three apples, but you only bought two, you might be wrong when you say you bought three- but are you lying?
If you met “Pat” ten years ago, and “Terry” six years ago, but you get mixed-up and say the reverse, are you lying?
Being incorrect is different from being dishonest. Yes, you could be both at once, but they are not the same.
Other stuff that sometimes gets called lying or dishonest just makes me wonder why people think it is. Or at least, why they think it’s so much more dishonest than other things. Like I’ve read that women wearing makeup or a push-up bra is a lie. Whether the purpose is to attract a man, attract a woman, or just for fashion, what makes it so different from a bazillion other not “natural” things we often take for granted regardless of gender expression? I mean, if you wear perfume, cologne, or even anti-perspirant, that’s not your natural smell, is it? Mouthwash, toothbrushing? Is combing or brushing your hair actually natural? Cutting it? Is any shaving of any body part natural? How about washing with soap in water treated for purity? I mean, in nature you’d just jump in whatever lake or stream is available, right? I guess people would say- but those things are matters of health– and wearing makeup isn’t. But while it’s good to brush your teeth and bathe, for a lot of people perfume and cologne are actually unhealthy. And health doesn’t require certain hairstyles. Or choosing a suit or dress over a t-shirt and jeans, or whatever else.
If people think the points I am raising are “not the real issue” why can’t they explain the difference? Because I should just know? Because I should just acknowledge their opinion is superior to mine?
Well, I’m done for now.
I’m sure I can return to this topic or similar another time.