“The liar’s punishment is, not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.”
― George Bernard Shaw
I remember a quote my Mom told me when I was a kid (about liars) that has stuck with me, even til today. It went something along the lines of, when you lie to someone, in reality, you’re actually lying to yourself. Last night, I had the pleasure of being treated out to dinner by a Japanese man that I’ve tutored English to for almost the entire term. Our conversations steered from all sorts of different topics, but somehow we wound up talking about lies. Interestingly he’s heard of three different types of lies: white lies, black lies and red lies. For the life of me, I can’t recall whether or not we went into details about what ‘red lies’ were, but maybe I’ll have the opportunity to ask him again as we plan to meet again this weekend for one last meeting before he returns to Japan.
Personally, I’ve only heard about “little white lies”, so naturally I was inquisitive about what the differences were. Before explaining, however, he mentioned that some lies are necessary. My friend and I both shook our heads in disagreement, when he proceeded to explain that ‘white lies’ were lies you tell people to help them feel encouraged and/or boost their confidence. These ‘white lies’ are selfless lies that we use when we respond to questions like, “Do I look alright?”, “How did I do?”, or “Will I ever figure this out?” Black lies, on the other hand have no benefits to others besides to the person telling the lie. Those lies are entirely self-centered in hopes of causing deception, manipulation and/or selfish gain.
I was actually taken by shock by the truth of his words. This was true. These ‘white lies’ are things we say and/or do almost consistently for the benefit of others. The fact that it stretches across borders and cultures, seems to also show it as almost a natural humanistic trait. This inevitably lead me to question whether it’s selfish or unselfish for a person to lie and deceive themselves. In my opinion, I would have to assume that it would have to depend on the purpose behind why someone lies to themselves in the first place… And that reason could be a mystery, given the individual.
I have to admit that I am quite guilty of telling black lies when I was younger, so the quote above really struck a cord with me because it’s true. After a while, you’re able to detect when people are lying to you, whether it’s the subtle change in the tone of their voice, to their response to a question with another question, to other little things. During my time in the Marine Corps, however, Integrity has been a value that I cherish in not only how I conduct myself, but in the traits of my friends as well. I think it’s interesting that the more trust you gain from people, the easier it is to lie to them as well, which makes being honest all the more imperative in those types of relationships.
I’ve been told by my parents, by friends, strangers and even my co-workers that I’m a rare individual; And to be quite honest – there are many times that I feel as though I was born into the wrong generation of people. I feel that too many people these days rely on faux-relationships, and often times jeopardize real, solid relationships for what seem to be hollowed-out shells. Regardless of the matter, I’m here now, and I will make best of what I have – whether that means severing ties that hold me down or encouraging or helping those that help to keep me grounded.
I guess it’s hard to tell who the white liars are from the black liars, since we all seem to wear masks. Masks that serve to help us hide who we really are, hide our pain and sorrows or hide our deepest and darkest fears and/or secrets. I kind of wish life was just black or white… it would surely make things easier to decipher; however, the easy road is never quite as adventurous, surprising and entertaining as the rough and tough dirt path.