Lying is an integral part of human nature. For anyone to deny lying merely proves the point. There are an infinite number of types of lies, but the vast majority are basically a form of defense mechanism—a means of self protection when we fear the truth may get us into trouble.
While truth is often subjective (that I hate mushrooms is the truth…for me. That you love them is the truth…for you), it is in fact largely malleable to some degree based on each individual's interpretation and experience. Lies fall into two basic categories: those told of perceived necessity/convenience and those told solely to gain some advantage. Because lying is ubiquitous, the former vastly outnumber the latter, but it is the latter that can and often does result in incalculable damage.
The toxicity of lies is in direct ratio to the harm they do. The vast majority of lies are simple responses to questions, and are often to protect the feeling of others. ("Do these pants make me look fat?" "Do you really think I have a chance?") Children and teenagers, who do not yet fully understand the effect their lies may have on others ("No one likes you!"), are particularly good at them. It is the lies of adults—those who know full well the consequences of their lies and simply do not care—which are inconceivably unforgivable. The sole purpose of deliberate, calculated, predatory lies typified by the contents of any computer's spam folder ("My dear friend. I am Mrs Mjeba Qnobe, widow of the Finance Minister....") is to take advantage of the trust, hopes, innocence, gullibility, or greed (in which the individual lied to is complicit in the lie) of others. The sociopaths who create harmful lies, unfortunately, deserve a far more harsh and severe punishment than they will ever receive.
The saddest and most destructive thing about lies is that the cynicism they engender systematically corrodes our basic human ability and need to trust, threatening those very qualities which make us human. Politicians and corporations liars know full well they are lying to us, and they just don't care. That we accept their lies without blinking encourages more blatant and egregious lies, which we also simply accept. As a society, we have become injured to lies.
We live in an toxic atmosphere, and we knowingly inhale deeply. By our unwillingness to stand up to—or even question—a lie, we become complicit in it. Social media has become a vast sea of patently egregious lies designed to foment fear and hatred, and we blindly accept them and forward them to others when a simple check for truthfulness, via www.snopes.com, for example, could prevent spreading the virus these messages carry.
Of all forms of lying, most are of the “white lie” variety, harming no one. Most are out of a perceived need to appease, or when the value of going into a more detailed explanation would involve more time than the situation warrants.
Despite all the negativity surrounding lies, our hope lies in the fact that there are a great many people who prefer to evade or sidestep rather than outright lie, and who find lying specifically to hurt another human being or solely to gain an advantage repugnant. This does not make these people saints. But it does make them responsible human beings.
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