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We all know liars.  The vast majority of us become liars from time to time.  Sometimes, the lying seems very necessary, for we lie to spare someone else hurt feelings, or we lie to help someone else out of a jam, or we lie because the lie is so minor that it's not going to affect anyone negatively, but will affect us positively, so it seems to be quite justified.  And who's to say it's not justified?  Sometimes we even lie because someone else is demanding information from us, and we know that that person doesn't deserve to know the information, or will use it in harmful ways once he or she gets it.  So we tell that person something other than the truth.  But "What is truth?" Pilate asks Jesus, and in the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, the question is taken even further:  "But what is truth?  Is truth unchanging law?  We both have truths--are mine the same as yours?"

There are people in this world who lie to harm.  There are others who lie habitually, seemingly unable or unwilling to tell the truth.  Most people do their best to tell the truth and find it difficult to lie, but end up doing so when circumstances seem to demand it--when they need to save face or "protect" themselves from punishment.  The first type of person is best dealt with under the topic of "meanness," while the second type is best left to the psychoanalyst or psychologist.  It's the third type of lying that belongs here, for that's the type that keeps us from enjoying our days for all that they're worth--an aberration in our behavior that pulls us down, makes us feel horrible, causes fear that wasn't there before, and has the potential to harm relationships that mean a great deal to us.

Lying pulls us down, for when we don't tell the truth, we're bowing to pressure of some sort, and we're no longer acting in a way that's natural to us--we're being forced by circumstance to do something that we wouldn't normally do.

Worse, that something is one of the things that we get upset at when people do it to us, so we start to see ourselves as hypocrites.  We lose control of the situation, and we're now reacting instead of acting, and we're deceiving others who probably don't deserve to be deceived.  We're harder on ourselves than we are on others, usually, and when we lie, we start to see ourselves in exaggerated terms, and we start to see the lie as much bigger than it actually is.  Worse still, we start to focus on the lie, the action we took that was an aberration, instead of focusing on the more positive aspects of the world and people around us.  Often we become obsessed until we come clean and admit the lie, apologize for it, and start the process of putting it in our past.

Once we start fearing being found out, there's no way that we can get the most out of life.  We spend our time worrying about discovery and the inevitable confrontation that will expose us as people who are willing to lie, and who can't be trusted.  Of course, most people won't judge us so harshly that they'll never trust us again, but when fear enters our minds, all things grow out of their realistic proportions.  I just read an essay by a man who was remembering the time when he stole a pie as a child, then covered his tracks by lying.  The effect on him was drastic, as he had not only the theft to deal with emotionally, but also the lying afterwards, and the fear of the theft--and the ensuing lies--being discovered.

I often hear people say (and I say it myself) that I'd much rather have someone tell me a painful truth than have someone lie to me, only to have me find out about the lie later.  When we deal with children, we prefer to have them tell the truth and get in a bit of trouble than to lie and get in a lot of trouble--now for the original act and for the lie.  This is because something happens in a relationship once someone lies to the other person--one person is now hiding something, and the other loses trust, one of the most important aspects of any relationship.  The person who is lying is bringing dishonesty and suspicion and fear into the relationship, all extremely damaging elements.  And, interestingly enough, one lie leads to another as the liar tries to cover his or her lie with more lies, once the other person starts to feel the suspicion.  What happens to trust?  The person being lied to usually wants to trust the other, and the liar wants to be trusted, but knows that he or she doesn't deserve the trust--it's a vicious circle from which there's no escape except telling the truth, a painful remedy that many people aren't willing to face--they'd rather have the relationship end than tell a truth that may harm them by exposing their actions and their dishonesty.

For my part, I learned long ago--the hard way--that it's much better to tell the truth from the very beginning, even if the results for me aren't all that positive.  But I also try to decide on actions that won't put me in a position in which I'll have to lie to someone in the future.  I know that telling the truth is widely regarded as honorable and just, and I have no fear of taking responsibility for my actions.  I'd rather be slammed for being honest than be promoted as a result of dishonesty, for though in the latter case others may feel good about me, I'll feel horrible about myself.  And how can I live life fully if I don't feel good about myself?



We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves.

Eric Hoffer


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Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle that fits them all.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Maturity is reached the day we don't need to be lied to about anything.

Frank Yerby

A half-truth is usually less than half of that.

Bern Williams


A half-truth is a whole lie.

Yiddish proverb



When something important is going on, silence is a lie.

A.M. Rosenthal


A truth that's told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.

William Blake


What upsets me is not that you lied to me,
but that from now on I can no longer believe you.

Friedrich Nietzsche


The lies most devastating to our self-esteem are
not so much the lies we tell as the lies we live.

Nathaniel Branden


The liars' punishment is not in the least that they are
not believed, but that they cannot believe anyone else.

George Bernard Shaw


A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

Mark Twain

The history of the race, and each individual's experience, are thick with evidence
that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal.

Remember:  one lie does not cost you one truth but the truth.

Friedrich Hebbel


To tell a lie in cowardice, to tell a lie for gain, or to avoid deserved
punishment--are all the blackest of black lies.  On the other hand,
to teach one to try one's best to avoid the truth--even to press it
when necessary toward the outer edge of the rainbow--for a reason
of kindness, or of mercy, is far closer to the heart of truth than
to repeat something accurately and mercilessly that will cruelly
hurt the feelings of someone.

Emily Post

The people that Americans admire most extravagantly are
the most daring liars; the people they detest the most violently
are those who try to tell them the truth.

H L Mencken

False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.



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The most mischievous liars are those who keep sliding on the verge of truth.

J.C. and A.W. Hare
Guesses at Truth

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Yes, life can be mysterious and confusing--but there's much of life that's actually rather dependable and reliable.  Some principles apply to life in so many different contexts that they can truly be called universal--and learning what they are and how to approach them and use them can teach us some of the most important lessons that we've ever learned.
My doctorate is in Teaching and Learning.  I use it a lot when I teach at school, but I also do my best to apply what I've learned to the life I'm living, and to observe how others live their lives.  What makes them happy or unhappy, stressed or peaceful, selfish or generous, compassionate or arrogant?  In this book, I've done my best to pass on to you what I've learned from people in my life, writers whose works I've read, and stories that I've heard.  Perhaps these principles can be a positive part of your life, too!
Universal Principles of Living Life Fully.  Awareness of these principles can explain a lot and take much of the frustration out of the lives we lead.



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