On Lying

by F.

For whatever reason, I hate to lie, and the older I get, the less I want to do it. I have enough trouble knowing what’s right (as in “truthful”) without lies clogging my brain. I also avoid liars. This is a huge social disadvantage, of course, but for the moment it doesn’t matter much.

How much do we lie? A lot:

Experiments have found that ordinary people tell about two lies every 10 minutes, with some people getting in as many as a dozen falsehoods in that period. More interestingly — and Libby might see this as the silver lining if he is found guilty — Feldman also found that liars tend to be more popular than honest people. (Ever notice how popular politicians somehow change their minds on controversial issues such as the war in Iraq at the exact moment that public opinion on those issues changes?)

The benefits are social:

“It is not that lying makes you popular, but knowing when to say something and not be completely blunt is in fact a social skill,” Feldman said. “We don’t want to hear hurtful things, so a person who is totally honest may not be as popular as someone who lies. This is not to say lying is a good thing, but it is the way the social world operates.”

So lies are good, right? Maybe:

But before you get all high and mighty about how your lies never got anyone killed, consider this. A lot of research shows that serious lies are almost always told with the best of intentions. Think of it this way: Everyone would agree that telling a Nazi knocking at your door that you are not harboring Jews is a lie worth telling — a heroic, necessary lie. What is harder to understand is that many people who lie for what we feel are contemptible reasons see themselves in the same heroic light.

Me, I’d rather learn to live with the truth than lie. Sure, the truth stings a bit at first, but through the miracle of habituation, the sting subsides. But the truth–correct information–is extremely useful. Or so it seems to me. Perhaps I’m lyingto myself.

More at the WPost.