White Lies.

Hello, world.

I thought I would share the piece that led my creative writing professor to say I should even have a blog. The piece is a paper on why people lie, and I took a comical approach. So here we go:

The Lying Game by Callie Coker:

One of my worst pet peeves- worse than people chewing loudly near me, worse than when people use the incorrect homophone, worse than seeing girls with drawn-on eyebrows- is when I meet someone, and they feel the need to say, “Oh, I never lie.” My initial response is to say, “But you just did,” although I usually bite my tongue, smile, and give them a slight nod, as if to say, “We both know what is going on here.” These self-proclaimed perfect humans fail to realize that they can only tell me they never lie because they are lying to themselves. Everyone lies, no matter how big or small, the lies come out. The lie of never lying slips off a person’s tongue without the person giving it a second thought because human beings have a funny way of lying, while simultaneously convincing themselves that whatever they say is absolute even if all the evidence points to their statements being false. Sometimes I think that lying is just a matter of perception, and that liars do not consider themselves liars because they have convinced themselves that they are truth-tellers.

What people perceive to be true is true to them, and once someone is convinced of something, it is difficult to alter their thoughts. If people can convince themselves that something is true, perhaps by repeating it multiple times or even having it cut into their skin like Harry Potter, then they will believe it to be truth. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a writer for PhyscologyToday.com, agrees that lies can become truth, saying, “rather than [people] admit they lied, cheated, or worse, they twist the facts around so that, in their minds, they didn’t. It’s not consistent with [their] identity as an honest person to admit that [they] made an excuse, so rather than do this, [they] start to believe [their] excuse” (Whitbourne). If someone tells their professor that they failed to write their paper because their was stomach was annihilated by an evil cheeseburger, and not the copious amounts of tequila that invaded their system on Friday night, soon they will believe the cheeseburger they ate three months ago was the reason they missed the deadline.

Lies come in many shades, some just a pale gray that most would not even consider a lie so much as an exaggeration of the truth, other lies are a deep indigo that make a small screech as they float into open air. My first lie, or at least the first lie that I can remember, was closer to indigo, so blatant and obvious. At age six, I convinced a friend that I had a younger sister named Jennifer, who was four. My friend was persuaded rather easily, and I kept the lie going until she got in my family’s car to come over, and she asked my mom if she was going to meet Jennifer. Of course, my mother looked at my friend, then looked at me, then back at my friend, and said, “Who?” To say that my mom was confused and that my friend felt uncomfortable for the remainder of the evening is a bit of an understatement. Despite the awkwardness, I did not think it was so terrible that I fibbed about having a younger sister; my real sister was six years my senior and was told by her friends she was so “lucky” to have a younger sibling (although she would disagree), and at the time I wanted to be my sister, so if having a younger sibling was cool, then I wanted a Jennifer. However, what I realized that day is that my life from that point has been a continuous struggle with restraining the lies that force their way out.

Lying has always struck a curious chord in me, and I have continually asked people why they think people lie. This answer comes so easily to most, as they me that it’s because people are afraid of rejection, people want to be cool, or people want to protect other people. However, when I ask people why they lie, they always hesitate, take a few metaphorical steps back, and gaze at me with a look that questions if I will judge them for the answers they give. Then I wonder if maybe the answers that are about to come are little variations of the actual reasons (or perhaps small lies). The answers that do follow my question are usually that the person doesn’t want to offend someone, the person doesn’t want to admit something, the person is fearful of the consequences of answering honestly, or the person is afraid someone with judge him or her. Robert Feldman, a psychologist from the University of Massachusetts,concurs with these reasons, claiming that lying is linked to self-esteem, and that “‘as soon as people feel their self-esteem is threatened, they immediately begin to lie at higher levels'” (Lloyd). Coupling self-esteem and lying illuminates why many people lie, and I suppose most people would say they lie because they want to defend the honor of their self-esteem, they fear honesty’s consequences, or they think Regina George from Mean Girls will tell them “you can’t sit with us” if they are honest.

Each of these responses is reasonable, and I have often used them to answer my own question. The lies people tell are endless and diverse, and my own lies have often engaged in a civil war with my logic to find the reasons that I lie. After the Battle of High School, a treaty revealed that I have three major reasons I lie, and some may consider them cliche, but lies in themselves are a cliche way of evading reality. First, I lie to fit the idea that society has of perfection. I cannot even count the number of times I told people reading was dumb just because no one around me thought reading was a fun or interesting pastime. When I was a transfer student in the seventh grade, I told the “popular girls” that Harry Potter was for freaks, despite the fact that a Harry Potter poster hung on my bedroom wall, and that I owned every Harry Potter book, movie, wand, or t-shirt I could find in stores. If what was “popular” was something other than myself, then I was willing to change. I just wanted to fit, but the problem is that society has an image of what’s cool, what’s lame, what’s hot, what’s not, and skinny is pretty, but curves became a negative when Marilyn left us, and perfection is impossibly expected. According to Feldman, “we use lies to grease the wheels of social discourse. It’s socially useful to lie” (Boser). As a society, expectations are something people try to greet with enthusiasm and confidence, but if expectations are not met we feel like failures.

I have, on many occasions, lied because I despise disappointing people. Lies that usually help me maintain an image I believe others have of me, and I try to keep myself in people’s mold. For example, my parents have expectations that I will receive high grades, that I will not engage in “bad” activities, and I will always try my hardest to obtain my goals. When I received my first “B” as a sophomore in high school, I convinced myself that I did not receive a “B” because I had not put as much effort as I could have into my work or that I was distracted by my older boyfriend. No, I received a “B” because my teacher did an inadequate job of teaching the material. This reason manifested itself in my head because I did not want my parents to know that my effort was lacking or that I just wanted to have a social life because those were not justifiable reasons.

The third reason I lie is to protect the people I love. This is by far the most common form of lying I use in my life. I’ve lied several times to protect the people close to me, and I’ve been lied to because the people who care about me were scared the truth would hurt me. Despite the fact that I use this as a reason to lie, I’ve learned that this type of lying is the most damaging, and that honesty is superior. But still, even as I say that, I know that it is difficult to be the person who shatters someone’s emotions with hard truth. Usually if I’m going to lie to protect someone, I have to ask myself, “Would I be more disappointed to find out something that will sting for a bit or realize someone I loved betrayed my truth by lying to me?” In my opinion, the latter is always more devastating.

The reasons that people lie are unique to individuals, but I think there is a common ground in the lying game. People lie because it is part of human nature, and the lies that we tell are driven by some selfish desire; whether it be acceptance, self-image, or protection, we typically lie to serve ourselves. Most people attempt to put honesty first, and try not to lie for selfish reasons, but regardless of how much effort they put forth, a lie will push its way out of the person’s lips. While a world without lying seems nice, sometimes I question whether or not I would really want to know every little thing that a person has ever thought about me that they held back. I certainly do not want someone to lie to me and tell me that drawn-on eyebrows would be a good look for me if they wouldn’t be (and I know they would not be), but at the same time I don’t know if I could handle multiple people telling me that I’m repulsive (although they might be more likely to do so if I did draw on my eyebrows). Regardless of whether or not honesty is supreme, lying happens, and the next time you meet someone who feels inclined to say, “Oh, I never lie,” just smile as if to say, “We both know what is going on here.”

And there you have it. I hope you enjoy. Also, what are your thoughts on lying?
Callie Leigh

2 thoughts on “White Lies.

  1. Everyone lies and That’s the truth of it. I think the best we can do as human beings is learn to separate which lies we are telling to be polite or not be hurtful, or which lies we use to benefit ourselves. Great paper cal!

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