Friday, April 30, 2010

Why do we tell lies?

Here is a write up from my friend Dr PV Vaidyanathan, written exclusively at my request.


Why do we tell lies?

It's very obvious that the main reason we lie at any point of time is because if we were to tell the truth, it would bring us harm---physically, mentally or emotionally. Lying is mostly for self protection or to protect someone dear to us. So, one of the main causes of lying is fear about the consequences of telling the truth. And why are we scared to tell the truth? Because we have done something that we feel should not be done or we have not done something that we should have done. For example, my wife has told me not to smoke or chew betel leaves, but I could not help it as I am addicted, and have gone for a smoke. When she asks me "Where did you go"?, obviously, I am not going to tell her I went to smoke, for that would mean an hour of shouting, cursing and castigation. So I tell her that I went for a walk, or to the shop to get something or to the temple. I have basically saved my skin, by telling this lie. Or she has told me to buy something on my way back from work. As usual, I have forgotten. So, instead of telling her the truth, I tell her that the shop was closed, or that he did not have the required thing, or that I did not have money or some such thing. For the time being, I have avoided a showdown and a shouting and there is peace.

The second reason we lie, is to get something that we cannot get routinely. People are known to lie about their age, when there is an age limit for competitions or to get their children into schools, many people lie and produce false caste certificates to avail of jobs reserved for certain castes, we lie about our income to the tax authorities so that we can save some money, or lie about our son or daughter, to get them married etc. So, the first reason is fear and self preservation, the second is to acquire something.

The third reason we lie is because we don't want to hurt someone. My mother or my friend calls me and says "Why haven't you called me or come to meet me in a long time?" Instead of telling the truth, that I don't want to meet you, or that I don't enjoy our meetings, or that I don't like you, I tell lies. I tell them "Oh, I was so busy, or I was traveling or I was unwell" or some such excuse, so that I should not hurt them. This type of lying is more an act of diplomacy rather than white lies.

If you want your near and dear ones not to tell lies, then you must see to it that you are not giving them too many rules and regulations. Children lie because they have been given too many don'ts in life. Don't eat ice cream, don't have cold drinks, don't go down to play without finishing your homework, don't watch television for too long etc etc. Obviously, being children, they do all these things out of temptation, and then lie to avoid being shouted at or being thrashed, or to avoid making their parents unhappy. If your rules are many and stiff, if you are very rigid, if you are very particular or choosy, of if your acceptance of events and other people is very bad, if you are intolerent, people will always find ways to lie, to get around them.

Of course, it is always good to tell the truth, and honesty is the best policy, as we have been taught. But if one wants to speak the truth, one must also be prepared to face all the consequences of telling the truth. My father used to say "If I go and tell my boss that he is stupid and his face is like a monkey, I might be telling the truth, but I will be abused and will have to look for another job". So, speaking the truth comes with a lot of consequences. Friends become foes, relatives stop interacting with you, your wife and children avoid asking your opinions, the tax authorities will make your pay more tax, and in general a person who always tells the truth is never a popular person, and is likely to be very lonely.

Lying is an art, true. But one thing is clear. The truth has an uncanny way of coming out at the worst possible time when you least want it. If you want to lie, do so by all means, for you are your own boss, but know that if can backfire very badly, sometime or the other. And truth always triumps, maybe after many years, but it always does. Lies are like short term investments, while the truth is a long term investment, like your LICor NSC or PPF.

As far as telling a 100 lies to conduct a marriage is concerned, two things are clear from this proverb. One, the people who coined this phrase had a very high value and regard for marriage and considered it a major, compulsary event and the very purpose of life. Hence they were willing to commit sin, by lying, to see that a marriage went through. To them the end justified the means. Secondly, in olden times, the conditionings and social fabric was such that if you told a 100 lies about the boy, girl or their families and got them married, they would accept all the shocks after marriage and continue to remain married, for divorce and leaving one's spouse was rare. If you try that today, rest assured that before the honeymoon is over, the couple will be screaming divorce. It was okay in the olden days to do it, today, you are really asking for big trouble if you tell lies and conduct a marriage. Many marriages which are conducted truthfully and even love marriages where the couple know each other are known to head for the divorce courts, with an alarming frequency


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1 comment:

  1. True. Specially about why children lie is something all parents should think about.