To Call A Spade, A Spade Or To Spin A Yarn: Exploring The Truth Behind A Lie

By : Barnali Bose, Editor ICN-Group

Many of us will  remember the fairy tale character of Pinocchio, whose nose grew longer every time he lied. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen in real life otherwise, I can say with much conviction that everyone would see Pinocchio’s image in the mirror.

Elders never tire trying to inculcate the  moral value of truthfulness in children, do they?  And is there anyone who  has not heard of the proverbial saying that  nothing can be better than honesty?

But in real life, speaking the truth would quite often spell trouble, wouldn’t it? What if you tell your employer that you are fed up with his constant bickerings? What if you tell your colleague that the new dress she is flaunting is horrendous?What if you tell your hostess that the dessert she has so proudly presented  is not palatable at all ? What if……?

In real fact, in order to maintain the decorum of civility in society, in our day-to-day dealings with others, we are left with no alternative but to conceal the truth or at least a part of it.

Pandemonium would ensue in society if we were to speak truthfully all the time. Not only that, a person who spells out the harsh truth is most often branded a cynic and a sadist.

Hypothetically speaking a friend of mine has been betrayed by his better half. He says that she has been led astray and will come back soon( if he trusts me enough to confide in me).Should I tell him bluntly to give up all hope? Or should I turn a blind eye to  the self- deception of his?

When he is at the crossroads, what will sustain him – a lie giving him temporal hope( so that the irreversible reality of the situation sinks in him gradually)  or the truth that will, needless to say, drown him in the well of shocking despair ( perhaps pushing him to a point of no return) ?

However, there is one category of liars who we term   compulsive or habitual liars. It comprises those,  who lie at the batting of an eyelid.They lie simply for the sake of lying. I am certain, a few of us  have come across such people at some point in life.

It is said that a lie voiced with confidence, numerous times and heard repeatedly becomes a half truth or at least poses to be one. Political campaigns and commercial advertisements use this theory very successfully.

When the glamorous model on your tv screen persuades   you to use a  particular lotion  to  make your skin tone shades lighter, you are seldom able to overcome the impulse to buy it. Are you? This is true, specially in India, where a dark complexion is considered a setback, not only for the Eves but for the Adams too.

Lying seems to be  ingrained in the human psyche. I doubt anyone can admit even to himself that he has never ever spoken at least a partial untruth in his life.

When your child lies that he has a toothache and cannot study, it is that the poor child is exhausted peering over books and needs respite from studies. Instead of beating him back and blue, question yourself why he lied.

I once asked a child, “ Do you like pets?”and the answer flabbergasted me. Said she,“ Oh, sure I do. My father bought me an ostrich on my last birthday.” My immediate impulse was to brand her a liar but I stopped when I saw the sparkle in her eyes. I realised it was her imaginative mind at play, so I said, “ And what have you named him?”

We would do well to keep in mind, that children, besides being imaginative are imitative too. So be careful not to lie in your child’s presence. Do not ever write in your child’s school diary that illness was the cause for her absence when the truth is that you had taken her for Diwali shopping. Never break the trust your child has in your trustworthiness.

Well, is it always possible to judge what is true and what is not? Does it  not often depend on one’s perception of the situation ? Keats had said, “ Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.” Someone or something considered beautiful by one may not be so in the eyes of the other. Not everything around us is universally true unlike the fact that one who is born has to die someday.

Is it easy to spot a liar? Well,of course,it isn’t. Two factors come in the way of identifying a lie or a liar. First and foremost, a liar  strategically tells a lie calmly, keeping any apparent tell-tale  signs of lying,  at bay. In fact, it is an innocent person accused of lying that displays signs of  nervous anxiety.

On the other hand, isn’t it true that preconceived  notions and long-held prejudices  about people and circumstances often cloud our opinion and make it difficult to identify the lie or the liar?

When recently in India, well-known personalities from various arenas  were accused of violation of womanhood, I am sure that most of us immediately, mentally as well as vocally took sides.

To some extent, the lie-detector test, the modern day ‘Agnipariksha’, helps to sieve fact from fiction but of course it cannot be used at random. Hence, why not give a supposed lie, the benefit of doubt?

I once read somewhere,”A world without lies would be a terrible world.” After the initial jolt I received on reading this morally incorrect statement, I paused to give it an afterthought.

Such a world, I came to reflect after much introspection, would really be as burdensome as that in the Greek myth in which Atlas was condemned to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders by Zeus, a Greek God.

Trust me when I say that sometimes, ignorance of the truth is sheer bliss. And the next time you tell your child that Santa Claus arrives with a bagful of gifts for children on Christmas Eve, do not feel guilty for  telling him this traditional lie. Believe me, Santa and Rudolf the reindeer are figments of imagination that have, not without reason survived the ravages of time.

Rest assured that such a lie gives wings to the child’s imagination and helps him fly through the clouds of fantasy to see the beauty that exists beyond the horizon of stark realities that define life.

If only, we, as grown ups could nestle in the soothing bliss of ignorance of the harsh truths, life confronts us with! It is wishful thinking, isn’t it?