I don’t like lying to people. After some pretty terrible experiences with deceit when I was 16, I generally strive to be an honest person. Telling the truth keeps life simple; there’s no worrying about cover stories or discrepancies between different versions of events. In fact, keeping up with which friend knows what about your clandestine activities gets complicated, and making mistakes about knowledge levels pretty much endangers your entire livelihood. Lying is risky business, to say the least.
Sometimes, however, being dishonest may seem requisite if only to preserve a sense of privacy. Being a closet narcissist, I tend to find my life fairly interesting and even moderately dramatic at times. I enjoy sharing the highlights with my closer friends, so that they know what I’m up to on this crazy campus. However, I do value my privacy. All of my friends don’t need to know every single detail regarding my life, and when lines of questioning start going places I’d prefer to avoid, I’ll change the subject. If someone is really persistent, glossing over events or telling partial truths can be a very useful method of damage control. Deceit doesn’t always have to be explicitly stated; silence can be just as deceptive as any clever lines. Perhaps this qualifies as lying by omission. But isn’t it better than saying something deliberately untrue? Or is it worse? Is lying ever really justified?
People lie for a variety of reasons, some decidedly less innocent than others. They lie to make others feel better. Classic examples include telling a friend her new haircut looks good or that her ex-boyfriend didn’t deserve her anyway and, yes, his new girl is a tramp for hooking up with him the night after the breakup. No matter how much factual content is involved, lies can very comforting, and sometimes they’re what people want to hear. Preserving or protecting innocence can be an intention of falsehood. Children watching the news with their parents might be told Jeffrey Dahmer was put in jail for being a bad person. And technically, perpetuating a belief in Santa or the Tooth Fairy also constitutes lying, this can also be said about many of the myths of childhood that are later revealed to be false.
Let’s not ignore the selfish reasons behind deception. Liars often want to avoid feeling uncomfortable or disappointed in themselves. Telling a friend about having a fling with the person they’ve been crushing on for a month isn’t on most people’s lists of top 10 favorite things to do. Shame, along with guilt, might be a factor. Malicious liars can be discovered, too. Some people get power trips off of slandering competition for affection or political office. Vindictive people hurt others because they can. Perhaps fear or insecurity that parents or peers won’t accept religious or sexual preferences keeps some secretive or mendacious.
After the lying starts gracefully escaping from the ditch of deceit is almost impossible. Admitting falsehood requires swallowing personal pride and being willing to take consequences, and many people, myself included, find owning up extraordinarily difficult. From the loss of credibility and respect to being forced to confront the reality of betraying someone’s trust, coming clean is a dirty process.
So prevent sordid confessional scenes if you can. Steer clear of situations that will put you in questionable moral quandaries, such as making out with your roommate’s best friend of the opposite sex in the Jug. Be honest. It keeps life simple and makes Jimminy Cricket proud.