“But mom, I swear it is the truth, I really do.”
– Just about any 5 year old
As humans, we begin to lie at an early age. We, at some point early on, learn that sometimes the truth is a little better when sprinkled with some incongruences because it makes the story easier to listen to or more impactful. We start by trying to convince our parents that we did not sneak an extra snack after bed time or that we “swear” we did not swear at school. We started to realize which styles of lying worked better and began to become excellent webbers of these non-truths (or maybe out parents just stopped caring what we said). As we aged these lies started to become so elaborate that we had to start to keep track of what we actually said, to whom, and at some point started to learn how to bridge two or more seemingly different lies together to avoid being caught. Some of us were better at it than others which at some point influenced our moral code (the better liars had far less reason to tell the truth).
We went to high school, college, and some to grad school. Afterwards, the best liars went into professions where to succeed you sometimes have to bend the truths. To avoid confusion I must point out that, while there are professions where it seems like lying is a daily routine, there are others which require the most skill in order to reach or maintain the top. Open a newspaper or login to whichever news outlet you wish, close your eyes and point your finger and more often than not you will have landed on some type of scandal which involves a lie. Current lying scandals include Hilary Clinton’s reaction to Benghazi, Lance Armstrong’s confession, and a football player’s fake girlfriend. These are all “great” liars but the real question is who cares and who gets to decide which of these lies gets to actually mean something.
For the sake of this argument we must out aside any lie which has a fuzzy moral component. It is agreeable for everyone (hopefully) that killing is bad while other “morals” such as same-sex marriage have much fuzzier connotation. The reason I have to make this point is because a lie with a non-fuzzy background generally has a black and white answer. For example;
Q: did you steal that TV?
Response: We have you on film.
Given this example it is pretty clear what the lie is and what it is not. However, try on another scenario.
Q: Did you smoke marijuana?
A: I did not inhale.
Sound familiar? This was a short dialogue with Bill Clinton talking about smoking weed. Amazingly, he introduced a fuzzy line which made people question what really happened. While he may have been puffing he was not “smoking”. The reaction of the public to the latter event holds the answer to who decides if a lie is a lie. The public, maybe influenced by his remark and maybe not, chose whether or not it mattered that Clinton “smoked”. Similarly, the innocent person in a cheating relationship, a boss who is being given an excuse for the worker not showing up, and the parent all have the ability to determine what is a lie. Why? The person who is being lied to gets to decide if they like the lie or if they want to call the person out on what they say.