To lie is human

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“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto VI, Stanza 17.

(1)

Lying is an interesting subject.

If I say to you that I am not a liar, then I’m lying. We are taught that lying is a bad thing and that we should always tell the truth. Yet we all lie on a daily basis. Cue the “white lie.”

We tell the truth most of the time except in instances where it would better to tell a small lie in order to spare someone’s feelings or to avoid an argument or difficult conversation. Once we start to lie, white one or otherwise, we are on a slippery slope. Where do you draw the line between a “white lie” and a full-fat lie?

Small lies prevent large hurt feelings.

(2)

Lying is confusing.

When you factor in the “white lie,” it seems to lie is not always bad or harmful. Conversely telling the truth is not always good or beneficial.

Like a knife,

lying is a tool – a neutral instrument that may be used for good or for ill depending on the intent and the will of the person employing the tool.

We lie to avoid responsibility, punishment, and judgment. Our lizard brains convince us that lying is in our best interest – for protection – of self (flight, fight, or lie).

Some lies affect only the liar, and some lies affect the lives of millions of people.

(3)

It turns out, lying is fundamental to our development as human beings, much like walking and talking. Kids learn to lie between the ages of two and five. It’s one of the ways they start to exert their independence. While the truth comes naturally to us, lying, on the other hand, as psychologist Bruno Verschuere suggests, “takes effort and a sharp, flexible mind.”

Lying,

“is something that most of us are very adept at. We lie with ease, in ways big and small, to strangers, co-workers, friends, and loved ones. Our capacity for dishonesty is as fundamental to us as our need to trust others, which ironically makes us terrible at detecting lies. Being deceitful is woven into our very fabric, so much so that it would be truthful to say that”

to lie is human.

(4)

The ability to manipulate others without using physical force gives one an advantage when it comes to competing for resources and mates at least according to our evolutionary biology. All animals have the ability to deceive. It’s easier to gain power by lying rather than the use of force.

But where do you draw the line?

(5)

Imagine a world where everyone told the truth all of the time.

(6)

Now imagine a world where everyone lied all of the time.

(7)

Both scenarios would ultimately lead to the breakdown of our society.

But here’s why we have to have trust when communicating with others, much of our knowledge comes from what others have told us. If we couldn’t trust that most people tell the truth “most of the time,” our social relationships would fall apart and we’d slide into chaos.

No-one wants to live in isolation, so we take the risk of being of duped.

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