1 December 1995
I guess people lie for many reasons but I only have personal knowledge of two reasons: to enhance one's image with others and to deny something. Between the two, I think most people lie to enhance one's image with others for we, as a species, are social beings and seek out or must know or must elbow our way into our place or standing in a community.
Lying to enhance one's image with others. When I was in the third or fourth grade, I can not remember which as these two grades have faded together in my memory at this point, we had a form of show and tell in school and although I did not know it at the time, the United States was still not very far away in time from World War II (WWII) and thus show and tell was about what our father's had done during the war. Listening to the stories of other kids or looking at what they brought to school or listening to actual fathers who came to class, to me, it seemed that every kid in class had a father who had single handedly won WWII. But my father had not served in the war, having been let out of the Army because of some physical problem I have never completely understood but never the less, it finally came my turn to show and tell and when asked what I had I could bring into class, I responded to the teacher that my father had been to Japan during the war and had brought me back a small wooden boat. Now why I invented a small wooden boat I did not know then and do not know now but as soon as I had said it, I knew I was in trouble. There was no small wooden boat but the teacher was all excited and insisted I bring the boat to class the very next day. I had not bargained on having to bring the boat to class but then I think, thinking is not a significant part of lying for if we did actually think before we spoke, we probably would not lie in the first place.
That night, I fretted over what to do. As there was no boat and I knew of no way to buy one, I decided I would make one and so I found a piece of wood and proceeded to drill out its insides to form the shell of a boat but as the work progressed I knew that I could never pass this crude object off as having come from Japan and although no one in the class, to include the teacher or myself for that matter, had never seen a wooden boat from Japan and thus no one knew what one really looked like, I had this image in my head of one, and the pitiful object I had in my hands was not it.
The next day in class, the teacher asked my about the boat and I did the only thing I could, I lied again and said my father would not let me bring the boat to school for fear that it would be damaged for lost. As she seemed to accept this, I was saved and my heart began to beat regularly again for the first time in 24 hours but I was not saved for this particular teacher was persistent and that night she called my father and asked permission for me to bring the boat to school. Of course my father knew nothing about any boat and after he had finished speaking with the teacher, spoke to me about it and I think that the talking to I received then was my first lecture on lying and how important it was to tell the truth. I do not remember getting a spanking or any physical punishment and perhaps this was so because my father may have felt bad about not serving in the war and me not having anything, or at least anything I thought of value, to share in class. In the end, I guess I was ashamed to simply say to my teacher and to the class that my father had not served in the war as it would have reflected upon my status in the group.
Image enhancement. I had lied to enhance my image with the teacher and the class and although I may have lied before this event in my life, I do not remember it or perhaps any former lie had only been to another single individual and not to a whole class of kids and a teacher and thus did not compare in magnitude to the boat lie.
I did not stop lying after the boat, as it seemed to me, as I grew up, more and more my image with others was constantly being challenged or in a round about sense, I was constantly being asked "Who are you ? " and every time I seemed to come up short or have nothing really all that exciting to talk about or to claim about myself, so I made it up and for a while it seemed to work. But after a while I began having trouble keeping track of what I had told whom and found that if I wasn't careful, I would contradict myself in subsequent discussions and thus put some tarnish on my credibility although at the time I did not think of credibility as much as not wanting to get caught in the lie.
I do not remember a specific event which caused me to stop lying in my life, it was more that lying faded away and perhaps this is so because other events in my life made me care less and less about what other people thought of me and thus I had no need to enhance my image with others. Or perhaps I began to see that the things I did or could do were of value or had worth and could be talked about without shame. Of course there was always someone with a better story or who had hit 5 home runs in one baseball game to my 2 home runs, but I had begun to not care. It just seemed easier to tell the truth and not worry about or try to remember what I had said so I could not conflict with it later.
Lying to enhance one's self image. Even now I have to watch myself for I am capable of lying. When I am with someone who I want to respect me or like me and I say something which is the truth but which I can tell is not being received very well by the other party, a lie will form in my mind which I know will make things all right and it is like a balloon swelling up with incoming air for it seems to grow so large, so fast, as to completely dominate my mind and if I am not careful and think for just one microsecond about it being a lie, I will actually let the lie through my lips. How I learned to pause at the point of a lie explosion I do not know, but do know that this is the key to not lying and the other keys are not caring so much about what other people think of you and finally realizing that right or wrong, what I tell about myself may not make me the greatest human being to have ever lived, but it least it is the truth and truly who I am.
I have never really had a problem with lying to deny an event or to cover up an action. Partly this is due to the fact that I think I was eventually caught in every lie of this type as a child and thus learned there was no point to lying, as the punishment was always less when I told the truth than when I was caught in a lie and partly I think this is due to the fact that at the age of 10 or 11 years of age I was unjustly accused of lying and received a severe punishment for the perceived lie and later events confirmed I was telling the truth and somehow I felt vindicated and that when it came to lying about something I would not do it.
Lying. When you lie, I think you believe that everyone else lies and when you tell the truth consistently, I think you think everyone else tells the truth and I know that both points of view are incorrect. Not everyone lies all the time and not everyone tells the truth all the time but then again, I think everyone is capable of lying at any one given moment in certain situations.
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