i’m not upset that you lied to me, i’m upset that from now on i can’t believe you ~ friedrich nietzsche

A half truth is a whole lie ~ Yiddish Proverb

Honest people are a rare refuge in a culture where we have to swim the sea of lies euphemistically called “social skills”: white lies, lies of omission, manipulations, passive aggression, denial, deliberate cons, ass-covering deceptions… [see: neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering ~ carl jung]

To lie is to intentionally mislead others—while they presume we’re giving them candor—so that they’ll form beliefs that are untrue. To some, the thrill of deception and manipulation is sexy; it’s also a pitiable way to shroud.

This constantly happens in politics, with sales people, military recruiters,  some journalists, lawyers, contractors. That’s precarious enough for us all but it’s downright lethal within relationships. [see: now we’re cooking with gas(lighting)] Especially with children. They look to us to reflect the world authentically so they can form realistic patterns of behavior. [For a “minor” version, see: the reason for the season is jesus and other lies]

Manipulators tend to be self-serving and tamper with the truth usually to get their immediate gratification “needs” met but they commonly confuse control with power as well. [See: more power!!!*] Conversely, in their repressed insecurity, liars care way too much what other people think of them, worrying neurotically about what impression they’re making. They often have more vanity and practice how to “be” in front of a mirror. Aaaand…we’re moving into the realm of sociopathic behavior.

Once you commit to speaking the truth, you begin to notice how rare it is to meet someone who shares this resolution, except for kids. And animals. No wonder many people in the States—our American philosophy being based on passive aggression or its flip side, machismo/individualism—opt for pets in lieu of forming long lasting human relationships. A simple breath of spring air in our polluted world of associations.

Honesty is an offering we can extend to others and a wellspring of power. It provides an opportunity for ease of interaction, not the complex muck of duplicity no matter how “benign.”

Studies have shown that responsible people are less likely to tell lies, especially the self-serving type, the ones we spin to make ourselves look better or to avoid unfavorable responses like blame, shame or discomfort. Lots of denial happens here. The more “altruistic” lies are told to make others feel better: “Nice haircut!” “You look great in those pants.” It’s been shown that men tend to do the former and women, the latter.

Am I lying as I write this? Maybe. It’s the written word; apparently words in print are given more credence, as are statements conveyed by a person in medical or other authoritative attire. I’m wearing a sweatshirt so I’d be suspect.

The bottom line is if you lie, you disturb the trust of another and those ramifications spread suspicion and wariness like undesirable pollen that contaminate our society’s underpinnings. Think hard before you glibly lob any sort of fabrication—unless you’re writing fiction. And even then, be wary, as all decent fiction should uncloak deeper truths.

2 thoughts on “i’m not upset that you lied to me, i’m upset that from now on i can’t believe you ~ friedrich nietzsche

  1. A very fun read – thanks for posting! What you described is similar to Condon’s guidelines to Interpersonal Ethics, which can be found in Ethics in Human Communication (Johannesen, Valde, & Whedbee 2008):

    • Be candid and frank in sharing personal beliefs and feelings. Ideally, “we would like no to mean no; we would like a person who does not understand to say so, and a person who disagrees to express that disagreement directly.” [As opposed to discussing the disagreement in a covert manner, aka ‘behind your back.’]
    • In groups or cultures where interdependence is valued over individualism, keeping social relationships harmonious may be more ethical than speaking our minds.
    • Information should be communicated accurately, with minimal loss or distortion of intended meaning.
    • Intentional deception is generally unethical.
    • Verbal and nonverbal cues, words and actions, should be consistent in the meanings they communicate.
    • Usually it is unethical to block intentionally the communication process, such as cutting off persons before they have made their point, changing the subject when the other person obviously has more to say, or nonverbally distracting others from the intended subject.

    You hit the main distinction between what many people consider acceptable and unacceptable lies – it all depends on the intention behind the “mistruth.” According to many philosophies, an intention to harm is unethical, and an intention to deceive is inherently harmful. However if a lie is for (as you put it) “altruistic” purposes, it is generally more socially acceptable. The only catch is that you must be mindful how many “generous” lies you produce, even with the best intentions. As Mark Twain put it, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
    N. Butler
    Undergraduate Student
    Drury University

    Mark Twain > Quotes. (n.d.). Mark Twain Quotes (Author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn). Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1244.Mark_Twain

    Johannesen, R. L., Valde, K.S., & Whedbee, K. E. (2008). Interpersonal Communication and Small Group Discussion. Ethics in Human Communication. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.


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