Truth and Lies

Truth is a tricky thing, because how a thing looks depends so much on where you are standing, and what informs your perceptions. No two people see, understand or remember events in exactly the same way. Even in the realms of science, truth – in the form of results, is about balance of probabilities, trends, clusters and the such – hard facts are surprisingly hard to come by.

When dealing with people, I try to bear in mind that their truth is not necessarily the same as my truth, and that this will not necessarily invalidate either position. One of the most essential things in a relationship is the constant negotiation to understand world views, and to get a sense of how the other person’s truth fits with yours. Some of us are too far apart to ever make much sense to each other. By talking gently, comparing, listening, we can develop understanding and insight. If we don’t hang on to the idea that our truth is the only truth there is, relationship becomes a lot easier and far richer. It can really help with resolving conflict as well, because often these arise from difference in interpretation, not any ‘wrong’ on anyone’s part.

So, when a person offers me an insight that doesn’t automatically tie in with my own, I try and find out how that works, and why – whether my perceptions are askew, or there are other issues afoot. Where I have close and trusting relationships – as with my child and partner, this is a really good process, and one that we don’t need to go through very often. The more we do it, the better we understand each other. I realise however it’s an approach that leaves me wide open to deliberate manipulation. Honourable relationship is only possible when all the people involved act with honour.

There’s a world of difference between having a genuinely different take on things, and lying. When all you have are the perceptions of two people to negotiate between, wilful untruth is a serious problem. Imagine a situation in which something goes wrong, one person seeks to find out why and take responsibility for mistakes they may have inadvertently made, while the other knows it was their fault, but lies about it to avoid responsibility, and blames the innocent party. Or if that second party sets out to deliberately harm, and then attempts to place blame on the victim. That can become incredibly destructive, if not maddening.

However, lying is a risky business. Even if you can convince someone their interpretations are wrong, lying is always vulnerable to truth. If there turns out to be any evidence, or proof of the lie, then the person perpetrating it is not only compromised for that situation, but for everything else as well. Once you know that someone is willing to deliberately lie in order to cause harm, deny harm they have caused, blame others for their mistakes and otherwise cause distress, then everything they do is suspect. Once a person has a reputation for that kind of calculated, malicious lying then nothing they say can be trusted, nor should it be, for that is the price of sustained untruth offered for personal gain.

I think everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt. I wouldn’t start from the assumption I was being lied to – unless a person had already compromised themselves. But once a person demonstrates willingness to intentionally and knowingly lie in order to injure another, then there are no second chances, and everything they have said and done before becomes questionable.

How do you deal honourably with someone who has no honour? That I do not know, and must now contemplate. As ever, experiences, opinions and ideas are very welcome.

5 thoughts on “Truth and Lies”

  1. “How do you deal honourably with someone who has no honour?”

    You deal honorably with them, but with the knowledge that they do not tell the truth or are prone to untruth, if pressed, and if guilty. Once you understand a person’s behavior, there’s nothing dishonorable in not offering them a victim in yourself. In all things that don’t include whatever this dishonorable person’s weakness is, you can treat them just as you would anyone. Where their weakness does come into play, there’s no dishonor simply telling them what you will and won’t do, and why, and that nothing is going to change your mind. Being passive or accepting of dishonesty is – in a macho chivalric sense – a cowardly behavior though it’s often confused with treating someone with kindness/understanding/what have you.

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  2. There are all sorts of liars for all sorts of reasons. The real criminals, you can try to get arrested, or at least warn off their intended victims.

    But then there are the mere confabulators, with self-pitying or self-inflating fantasies — harmless except for being time-wasters. All you need do is recognize them, and let others recognize them, and then let them tell their stories to sympathetic (if undeceived) ears. Loneliness is eased, and perhaps the need to confabulate is reduced.

    The Vietnam veteran who was everywhere doing everything — infantry, special forces, fling a plane for Air America — when you added it all up, he needed to have been in three places at once to do what he said he did; the hypochondriac/Münchausen-syndrome sufferer with Band-Aids and Ace Bandages over purported surgical scars no-one else saw, from purported hospital stays of which no-one could find a trace; eventually both married caring stable people, dropped the storytelling, and lived some happy years among friends before they finally died of health problems.

    They were perfectly decent people, come right down to it. But believing those earlier tales could have driven you to distraction.

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