Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Good Lies, Bad Lies and Body Count Lies

I am a liar, no question about it.

If you were to ask me, "Hey, I've got tickets to "Mary Poppins" on Broadway next Friday...you want to go with me?" Not wanting to risk of hurting your feelings, I would more than likely respond with a quick excuse to get me off the hook...I would rather a rock in the process of metamorphosis.

That's really presumptuous of me to assume I'm going to hurt your feelings just because I don't like "Mary Poppins" on Broadway...who cares what I like? However, I know a person or two who would take offense, either because I don't share their love of "Mary Poppins", or he or she will assume I'm trying to avoid spending time with them.

So, what's the harm? As far as I'm concerned, none, that is, unless my friend catches me hanging out at the Broadway Lounge (yes, I would be that stupid) instead of helping Great-Great-Great Uncle George schlack his wooden teeth, two states away, the first thing that popped into my mind in order to avoid watching Mary Poppins administer a spoonful of sugar.

I call the aforementioned scenario "compassionate" lying...lies that spare the feelings of others. Actually the example I just gave is more an example of "spare-me-the-guilt-trip" type of lying. Telling a toothless, wrinkled homeless woman who hasn't showered in a decade how beautiful she is, would be a better example of "compassionate" lying...and to be honest (I love when people say that, like it's the first time), she is beautiful...on the inside, where it counts, right?

Anyway, lying, IMHO, is an essential component of civilized living. The question is where do we draw the line? The first example I gave, many would argue, is not at all a requisite to co-existing benevolently; I'm obviously sparing only myself. The "beautiful" homeless woman illustration is humane; emphasizing humanistic values and concerns, which differentiates the barbaric "community" versus an enlightened one.

A University of Arizona study on lying in children reveals that lying increases as children age, and that the majority of these are "pro-social", or “white lies", intended to benefit or help others. "Pro-social” lying can be an indicator that kids are developing their ability to sympathize or empathize, vital to connecting with others. Professor Talwar's hidden-camera tests with children show that fibbing is part of normal brain development.

So, when does lying turn into a bad thing? What about Ken Starr, Linda Tripp and the Republican Party "catching" Bill Clinton in a lie? Well, considering the elaborate effort Starr, Tripp etc. made to deceive Monica Lewinsky in order to set up the President of the United States for a fall, Bill Clinton's lie pales in comparison with the conspiracy to bring about that little lie.

Oddly enough, lies associated with girls in blue dresses with stains and splashes bring about the wrath of God whereas lies that blow off men's toes and eyelashes, or what I call body-count lies, barely register on the radar.

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