“Does this make me look fat?” she asked, with self conscious wariness. In that moment, I had a big decision to make.Do I tell her the truth,that Christmas has been unkind to her waistline and crush her already minimal self confidence? Do I tell her a small lie, tell her that she looks gorgeous as always? The answer was obvious; “You look beautiful,honey”, was met with a big smile, as it always is.
There was no way I would tell her the unvarnished truth in such a situation. I love her too much to ever want to hurt her. They say that the truth can set you free, I am not so sure.
Sometimes, pretence is no bad thing. We lie to avoid awkwardness or punishment. We lie to maintain relationships and please others. And, of course, most of all we lie to please ourselves. Whether we’re embellishing our credentials or strengthening our stories, we often tell untruths to make ourselves appear and feel better.As Oscar Wilde once said, “the truth is rarely pure and never simple.” the truth can really hurt and sometimes it’s better to allow someone to believe a lovely lie than a terrible truth. Like in job interviews, Do I adore waitressing? of course not. It’s not easy, you’re on your feet for hours and the customers are often rude. If I said that in a job interview, I’d never be hired. So, I’d say that waitressing is a wonderful opportunity to meet new people while ensuring they enjoy their dining experience. A little far from the truth but, a lot more likely to get me hired.
Irish people in particular lie to conceal wealth. Being well-off in this terrible time of recession could almost be seen as a sin. So, as a habit, when told by somebody that they like my dress, I’d always say something like “Oh this old thing? It was a fiver in Penneys.” Even if the reality is that I saved up for months and bought it in Topshop. Lying in this case is totally minor but if I told the unvarnished truth here and said, “Oh this? I just spent two months wages on it in Topshop!” I would be viewed as flippant with money. This would not go down well in this time of economic crisis, something would probably be purposefully spilled on my dress for sounding boastful. In this case, pretence is definitely best.
Ignorance is even more blissful in nightclubs. A guy or lady approaches you with amorous intent, they look like a squashed tomato. Do you tell them that the sight of them is greatly unappealing? No. You tell them you have a significant other because it’s kinder to let them down gently. I’ve used every excuse under the sun to avoid the ugly truth,especially when ugly is the operative word. Nobody wants to go home with hurt feelings and crushed self-esteem after a night out.Even if you were tactless enough to tell them the unvarnished truth, you’d probably get a well-deserved slap.
The truth is often ugly. Nobody likes to hear the phrases ‘to be honest’ or ‘no offence, but…’ because they so often herald hurt feelings. Are we not on this earth to make each others passage through life that little bit easier? If a little lie or a small deceit helps us to do that then what harm is there in it? Honestly, I do not see a problem here. Life is hard sometimes and if a small lie makes it easier for somebody then I don’t mind it.
That said, I know that being lied to can be awful. The betrayal of it’s discovery can really hurt, even if the lie was told with good intentions. Placing your trust in somebody only to find out that you shouldn’t have done so can ruin your relationship. Such as if your boyfriend lied about where he was last night or knowing that your best friend betrayed the secrets of the night before to your mother.The worst betrayal I ever faced was when I found out that Santa is in fact,my parents. Such a small deceit made Christmas magical for years but, this revelation did dull the sparkle of the holidays for a while.Being lied to can be painful but, is it worth the risk of pain to have the happiness provided by the lie?
I think it usually is, as Alanis Morissette once sang, “if it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad”.A small deceit can provide comfort in such an uncaring world. Everyday, we’re bombarded with tales of woe by the media. Recession, global warming, murder, gangland crime, drug culture,kidnap,rape; the list is endless. The world is so often such a dark and gloomy place. As Plato said, “Be kind to all you meet, for each of them if fighting their own battle”, If a lie can make another persons day that little bit brighter then that’s all the better. It’s hard to stay positive in this day and age so if a lie can help somebody do that then I feel it’s a great thing.
Pretence and deceit have given us some of the greatest works of art and literature ever known. As Picasso once said, “Art is the lie that enables us to see the truth”.All of the Shakespearean tragedies all contain elements of deceit and false appearance. Lies and half-truths give our stories plot lines.I know for sure that if people told each other the unvarnished truth all of the time, ‘Game of Thrones’ would not exist. ‘Chicago’, ‘The Lion King’, ‘Les Miserables’ and ‘Fame’ would not exist as the world famous musicals we know today. Lies are often used to spice up storylines that would otherwise be full of people telling each other their honest opinions. I feel that that would definitely become boring very quickly.
If all we did was tell each other the unvarnished truth, what would happen to sensationalist journalism? That entire industry is built on gossip and half-truths,with no room for the whole truth. If it was all reality, it would simply be a newspaper and I for one, have no interest in reading that. There would be thousands of writers out of a job, the collapse of hundreds of magazine’s readership, the loss of hundreds of thousands of euro in advertising. All in all, it would be a disaster. I mean, who wants to read the truth about celebrities’ lives? To hear that your idols are in fact just regular people who have been thrust under the media spotlight by their jobs? No thank you.
Human beings’ default setting is to see the good in others. We want to believe that we are hearing the truth when talking to somebody.The reality is, that we are lied to all the time. I know for a fact my mother is not always telling us the truth if we ask her how she is, she works three jobs to keep us afloat and sometimes, the pressure mounts a little too high.She lies to protect us from the harsh reality of her life. There’s love in that lie. We allow her to think we believe her because we love her.This is the best use of a lie that I can think of. Protecting the people you love.
All in all, there is a time and a place for the unvarnished truth. I do know for a fact that pretence and deceit are a part of modern life, we are just told to call it tact and social grace. The border between lies and the truth often becomes blurred to the point where one becomes the other. The balance between the two extremes is a delicate one, only to be broached with extreme caution. I feel that lying is an essential life skill. One that can save you from all sorts of disasters. It’s definitely saved me more than once.You can believe me, I’m not lying.