Thursday, April 1, 2010

Are You Calling Me A Liar?

How many times have you heard that question?

How many times have you heard someone ask it as if it's the be all and end all, as if it's the worst thing a chap could be?

I don't know much about religion, the eleven commandments and what have you, but I know that two of them are "thou shall not lie" and "thou shall not jump red lights but amber ones are okay if you look properly first."

My good old Mum, who hasn't been mentioned in these parts for some time, treats the act of lying as though it's the dividing line between a good person and a bad one. I recall being told as a child that one should never lie, that my Mum never did it, except for one time when she lied to me when I was about seven and a favourite Uncle of mine had died. She decided to tell me after I'd come home from school, not in the morning, to avoid me being upset during the day.

As I grew up and started to make my way in the world of adults and grown ups I realised that everyone lies, even my Mum. I also found out that lying isn't the most heinous crime in the history of heinous crimes, it's just a thing most of us do, to varying degrees and with many different motives.

Some people, like my Mum in that whole Uncle dying thing, might lie to spare someone's feelings, if of course she's to be believed. Others tell huge great whoppers bigger than even the womens' department at House Of Fashions in order to cover up huge immoral and maybe illegal acts. Others tell "white" lies to cover up minor acts of dodgy behaviour or small misdemeanours.

Then there's that position we've all been in, the one where I repeat a thing that you've told me beleiveing it to be true, when you've lied to me. Am I telling a lie or the truth? My view is that I'm telling a lie, but in good faith and believing it to be true.

I've been in many a meeting when a person has said or alluded to the "are you calling me a liar?" sentence, that very definitive make or break, do or die, either/or question and it used to stump me. It used to present me with an obstacle that I rarely wanted to leap over, knowing that, if I did, I'd be stuck over the other side of it forever. The other side being the one where the other person was labelled as a liar.

Not so long ago my thinking on this changed. I figured that the way to deal with this situation is to calmly say that I lie, you lie, we all lie so it's not that I'm calling you a liar and branding you as if you're a convicted peodophile who should never be released back into society. I'm merely saying that, in this moment, you're doing something that most of us do and I know it and I'm challenging you on it.

It changes that big obstacle into a minor bump in the path, barely noticeable and easily dealt with.

And, if anyone tells you that they never lie, they're probably lying anyhow.

As you were.


Sach said...

"Then there's that position we've all been in, the one where I repeat a thing that you've told me beleiveing it to be true, when you've lied to me. Am I telling a lie or the truth?"

You're not telling the truth, but neither are you lying.

As I see it, intention is what matters. So what you're saying is not factually correct or true (which you can say is a lie) but it isn't really lying since you had no intension of doing so.

sittingnut said...

copy and paste casuistry and half baked moral relativism.


but i may be wrong, may be this is a april fool's day joke.

yawn again.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Sach - I agree Sach, I think that situation is telling a lie but it's not lying, the intent is what matters.

Sittingnut - Yawn back to you. Have a good holiday weekend.

Dandelion said...

my mom lied to me then, she lies to me now. over time, i've learnt how to filter the truth ( but she does'nt know that). she's still an incredible woman.

so yes, its definitely the intention. makes all the difference.

Serendib_Isle said...

Now where does "withholding information" fit in this grand scheme of things? That's not lying nor it is telling the truth.