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Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Kiss on the Lips

When I lie to you, I have wronged you. On some level I know it.

Immediate repentance and a request for forgiveness can fix that, although asking and receiving forgiveness for some of the stupid, pointless lies we tell can be humiliating. It rarely works out like a sixties TV confession where Ward pats Beaver on the head and says, “That’s okay, son, we all make mistakes; the important thing is being man enough to admit them” — after which everybody goes for ice cream.

More often the person you have wronged looks at you like you have three heads.

That doesn’t change the fact that repentance and confession are the only right way to go, but let’s not pretend it always works out exactly like we’d hoped.

But if we don’t go through that process, things are going to get much, much worse.

Lies and Relationships

Why? Because lies don’t drift away into the ether. Undealt with, they lurk between me and the party I’ve lied to forever. Even if he or she forgets the conversation and never thinks about it again, I have no way of knowing they’ve forgotten it; which means that every time the subject about which I was deceptive comes up I will remain uncomfortably conscious of my own guilt. What might have been pleasant interactions between us now become exercises in working through how I’ll respond in the event I find myself needing to cover my tracks. To the extent one or both of us remains conscious of my deception, the company of the person I’ve lied to is no longer anywhere near as much fun.

I wreck my enjoyment of the relationship, and perhaps the other person’s as well.

Unless I am a sociopath, I will find lying stressful. That’s the principle on which polygraphs work. Lying accelerates aging and does long-term damage to the body. It shortens your telomeres. Perhaps instinctively we try to minimize the damage.

The Rationalization Game

Having rejected confession as a possibility, rationalization becomes the only way to ease my discomfort, and that’s where everybody gets hurt:

It Must Be Your Fault.  If I’m not the bad guy, then somebody else must be. In my conveniently rewritten narrative, if it looks like you’re perceptive enough to realize I’ve lied to you, it’s because you were too pushy, or you’ve failed to respect my privacy, or you were butting into something that’s none of your business. I mean, a real friend wouldn’t box me into a corner where I had no choice but to lie, right?

A lying tongue hates its victims.” What a jerk you are!

It Must Be Your Fault 2.0  Alternatively, if I realize I’ve successfully put one over on you, you can’t possibly be my victim; that won’t do at all. You must be unreasonably gullible. Any halfway intelligent person would surely have seen through my story. So I come to despise you because I have succeeded in deceiving you, and pride myself at my efficiency in prevarication.

Good to be competent at something, I suppose.

What Actually Happened Anyway?

In either scenario I deceive myself, because I’ve become convinced that my reasons for lying were something other than what they actually were. My grasp of reality diminishes with every convoluted rationalization of my behaviour.

An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. A dishonest answer is a smack in the chops.

The second is not a proverb, but it may as well be.

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