The Importance of Lying
It's a sad truth that every human adult aside from the chronically insane learns as they grow up that lying is essential to getting along in society. In fact, lying is so important that people who are unable to lie are simply unable to get along at all.
We lie on a daily basis, oftentimes without even opening our mouths. We smile at people we don't really like, leading them to think that we feel friendly towards them even though we'd rather run our own fingers through a pencil sharpener than spend an hour with them.
The question is this, why do we teach children not to lie? After all, childhood is the training ground in which we practice all our adult lying techniques. Even good children lie several times a day, in fact, one could say that it is the good children who lie the most successfully. “He did it!” Works well if you point towards the kid already known as a trouble maker, but doesn't quite work as well if you point towards an inanimate object. The kid in the first instance gains a reputation as being “good”, the kid in the second gains a reputation of being a “liar.”
Why not just admit to kids that lying is fine as long as you don't get caught? Why not really prepare them for the adult world and teach them that the best liars win the biggest? Some of the richest people in the world are also the biggest liars.
I hate lying. I hate having to lie because in my mind it infers some kind of fear of the person I'm lying to, and who wants to think that they are afraid? But I too, am a liar. So are you. I doubt a single person who reads this has gone a month this year without telling some form of lie to someone. Whether you've called it a lie by omission, a white lie, a half truth or some other candy coated euphemism, lying is essential to human society.
But so too, it would seem, is lying about lying.
It's a great irony of the human condition that we must protest to tell the truth even whilst we lie our butts off. Now most of us will tell the truth when we can because we like to think of ourselves as truthful people. We've actually been conditioned to value truthfulness even though being truthful is actually maladaptive and people who always tell the truth will be the most unpopular people around.
If we were to be truthful, we would simply admit that we were all liars. The only question then would be the only question that ever really matters, and that is, to what degree are we liars? And more importantly for our survival and well being, to what degree are those around us lying?
The most useful skill we can teach ourselves and our children isn't not to lie, it's to detect lies in other people.