Thursday, 14 May 2015

Fact or fiction?

Is honesty the best policy? Yes.

But is it, really? Well it is, supposedly…BUT IS IT?!
It’s an age-old question that to this day may not be answered; I’m certainly not about to answer it, I’d never take on that responsibility, but I can definitely ponder at it to my heart’s content. 

Firstly, you must decide what is technically a lie. A lie is anything that is not totally truthful; anything that hides or obscures or just plain denies the facts. That makes sense, although some folks may quibble over that, I’ve discovered… Don’t even get me started on the definition of a ‘white lie’. That’s a pesky little can of worms in itself. I genuinely used to believe that old wives’ (or rather, mothers’) tale that every white lie you told would result in a teeny little white speck appearing on your lie-telling tongue. Those specks would then grow and become yucky pasty splodges the more and more times you lied, and then someday you wouldn’t be able to say ANYTHING, be it factual or fictitious, because the swollen angry white splodges would not allow you to. You’d be silenced. To a very chatty, energetic and bossy five year-old, the threat of losing the gift of speech may as well have been a threat on my life…
Let me explain the reason behind this pondering post…I was called a ‘compulsive liar’ recently. I won’t lie to you – that hurt. Partly because, as sure as I was that this was just someone (a vicious ex-boyfriend, to be exact) lashing out at me and exaggerating a few instances in which I fibbed harmlessly for the greater good, and partly because I wasn’t sure it was a complete…well, lie.
It got to me so much that I decided to conduct an experiment today. I counted every single lie I told another human being. And I was surprised.
  1. My colleague calls from the other end of the bar: “are you alright?” Context: There’s a queue to the door, I’m running low on a little bit of everything I need to make the various hot drinks we offer with and I’m serving four people at once. I turn, smile and respond instantly “Oh yes, totally cool bro!” Somehow my faux casual gangsta lingo doesn’t tip him off.
  2. I say “I don’t fancy a panini for lunch”. At my work we get free paninis and toasties out of the fridge to eat for lunch, which is fab considering the public pay £3.95 for most of them. However, after the past five months of having these cheesy calorific freebies, I’ve got chubs. So I’ve brought my own bagel from home. I do fancy a panini for lunch. Really, I do. But I mustn’t.
  3. A regular customer who owns a hair salon tells me his new trainee stylist will be doing highlights in my hair for free ASAP. I respond enthusiastically, even though I have no intention of getting trainee-styled.
  4. My parents ask if the drive to and from work was alright. I say it was fine – I don’t mention the scary overtakers on the dual carriageway who always make me wobble behind the wheel.
  5. When I’m having a perfect Italian coffee with an old bestie in town, a family friend sits down on the next sofa and asks if it’s okay to perch there with her coffee. I say yes, despite the fact that my friend and I are discussing private things and I’d rather not have to whisper…also, I pretend I know exactly where I know this family friend from, when in reality all I know is her face.
  6. I update my progress with my current read on my Goodreads app, and say I’m ten pages further along than I actually am…I think of it as aspirational.
  7. I say I don’t mind watching The Graham Norton Show AGAIN with my family while we eat our dinner off trays on the sofas, when in reality I get so tired of that show so quickly. If I fancy one of the guests on Graham’s sofa, then fair enough. If I find one of them genuinely fascinating, then no problem. However, lately all his guests have bored me and his new beard is leaving me somewhat disconcerted. I say I don’t mind watching the show though, because it’s the only thing ¾ of us will agree on and I am happy to take one for the team rather than argue for another ten minutes about why we should be watching a recorded episode of CSI or my box set of Gilmore Girls.
Maybe today was a bad example to conduct my experiment, or maybe it was perfectly accurate. I’ll leave that to you to decide. My overall impression was that the only lies I told were for what I believed was the best. My intentions were maybe not pure, but at least clean-cut and good. In every instance, I wanted the best situation to come from my white lies, my dumb fibs and porky pies.
It cannot be denied: sometimes a lie can really save your hide in a tricky situation.
For instance, saying “I love you” to someone and being met with nothing but stunned-awkward-unfeeling silence is a horrific situation I would not wish on anyone. So of course I make sure it happens to me at least ten times as much as it should in one person’s lifetime, in the hope that that means less innocent souls will have to face it…
Now here’s where the lie comes in handy: after the silence has settled nicely and you’re 100% positive that your declaration of love will not be reciprocated, tack on a giggly “as a friend! Obviously! I mean, duh!” and let the recipient’s waves of happy relief rush over you and drown out your own immeasurable pain. It’s foolproof. I cannot recommend it enough. I may be lying, but I’m saving myself and others a lot of awkwardness.
So, is honesty really still the best policy? I think in this day and age, it’s a massive grey area; when is lying okay, and when will only the truth do?
You could argue that it is mostly dependent on the situation. I once saw my best friend’s girlfriend out and about holding hands with another fella (we were sixteen at the time, so this was a scandal) and had the worst moral dilemma like, ever (again, I was sixteen and naive) – do I tell my friend? Do I keep quiet and let it come out on its own? In the end, I pleaded with her to tell him, and when she didn’t, I had to. I never knew being truthful could hurt so much, but in the end it proved to be the best thing I could have done.
It helped that at that age I had been brought up to believe that honesty was indeed the only way to go…now, at twenty-one, things look different. Over the years, I’ve seen lies work their magic time and time again, for good and for bad. I’ve been lied to and been furious, I’ve heard a fib and been grateful.
The other day I asked a friend if my T-shirt was looking tighter than it used to; she insisted it had shrunk in the wash, bless her. I needed to hear that.
I’ve even found out I’ve been lied to way down the line – someone never told me something, and the situation played out while I was oblivious.
This leads us to another grey area: omission. Are you lying if you don’t tell someone…anything? If you wait and see how things go, don’t show all the cards too soon and hit anyone with an inconvenient truth, perhaps you won’t cause any unnecessary upset? Or perhaps it will all come out later and someone will feel betrayed?
I think my general outlook on this may have to remain an easy ‘do what you feel is best/reveal however much you wish to’…just think about the other person/people involved and decide what would hurt more: a lie or the truth?
Then do whatever will keep them happiest, or just what will give them the whole picture, and will also mean you’ll sleep tonight. 

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