I’m rather inspired to write today so this is post number two. If one can recall, I had written a previous post about lies. Well I suppose this is a spinoff of that post. I’ll be addressing two of the questions posed, when does an individual first decide to lie, to withhold the truth? What and how does the individual feel after the first engagement and what drives the individual to further participate in lying from thereon after? A random memory that I have stumbled upon has reignited my engagement with the peculiarity of lying. This is my first recollection (to date) of the first lie I told. I was either 4 or 5 years old, my family and I were, at the time, living with my father’s parents. I was supposed to be in bed, my parents, grandparents and one of my aunties were playing Chinese Mah Jong in the guest room. I remember they used to get together every so often to play, they were always kind of loud, but that’s not what kept me up. I suppose I’ve always been somewhat of an insomniac, I guess contemplation has never really stopped, but rather always been in constant motion. Anyway, I was supposed to be sleeping in the back room, I remember there was a phone there, since all the adults were in the guest room playing Chinese Mah Jong I was supposed to be in bed and therefore no television, I decided to entertain myself. I remember picking up the phone and dialing random numbers. Sometimes people picked up other times an automated voice told me that the number could not be dialed as such and to check the number and try again. At such a young age I was already up to no good by randomly prank calling people that I didn’t even know in the middle of the night! But I didn’t stop there, I remember repeatedly dialing “911” just to see what would happen. I would never say anything except to hang up when the emergency operator answered. I don’t recall just how many times I dialed “911”, only that it was enough times that they thought something was wrong. The operators sent officers to my house. I remember hearing the adults ask, in Mandarin, “Why are the cops here, what’s happening I the neighborhood?” Turns out the cops were coming to my house because someone had allegedly dialed “911”… it was me.
The officers asked if everything was okay, upon which they asked if there were children in the house and whether or not they had dialed the emergency line. The adults replied that there were children but they were all supposed to be in bed. After the officers departed, I remember my mother coming into the room and she asked if I had been randomly dialing “911”. I was so terrified about what my parents would say let alone what they would do that I lied and said that it wasn’t me, when it was obviously impossible that anyone else in the house could or would have dialed it. Did they believe me? I’m not too sure, I would think not, but the point isn’t whether or not they believed me, the point is – for purposes of self-reflection, that at that very moment I chose to lie rather than tell the truth. Why did I do it? Honestly, I’m not too sure… maybe it was because I was terrified of my parents or perhaps because it was easy and convenient, or maybe it’s a combination of both of those factors amongst others – the point is that I lied.
So, to my knowledge, I chose to lie at a very young age, how did I feel upon the first engagement of lying, well if I think hard about it, I think I felt an immense sense of relief that I didn’t get in trouble, that I didn’t get spanked or grounded as my mother was very strict. To some extent, I also felt a sense of untapped control and power meaning I was able to get myself out of trouble via the usage of words – even if they were not the truth. I believe it’s this self-realization of untapped power and control that sprung me to lie in my later years. But of course, it is obvious that lying is not without its consequences. When one engages in the act of lying, one also jeopardizes one’s credibility, reputation, and/or relationship with others, so the conundrum… why engage in the act of lying at all?
If I had to guess, I would rationalize and argue that simply because it is easy and it’s in human nature to take the easy way out – an attribute of being selfish. I would argue, to borrow language from the business industry to maximize profit and minimize costs, lying serves a similar purpose, maximize convenience and minimize nuisance (that is sometimes brought about with truth telling). However, having that said, I would also argue that in general, in regards to business the goal is long-term whereas in lying it can be both long-term and short-sighted. Long-term because sometimes lying serves as a prolonging of relationships established, whether it be a platonic, familial, or romantic relationship. For example in a romantic relationship, one may lie about infidelity – maybe because one realizes the self-fault and fears that by telling their significant other the truth, the established relationship would be incapable of surviving such a truth. Short-sighted because sometimes it’s merely for convenience, to get out of trouble, as suggested by my personal example, or even something superficial like say a group of friends getting ready to go out for the night where one person is constantly taking an obscenely amount of time to get ready. Maybe they don’t look well put together or just outright horrendous, they ask for their friend’s opinion and the friend tells a lie in order to hustle them out. Regardless of the lie serving as a short or long-term purpose, the point is that the lie has been told and it serves as a means to temporarily and instantaneously minimize nuisance. But this isn’t to say that telling the truth would not also potentially jeopardize one’s credibility, reputation and/or relationship with others. When one engages in the act of truth-telling, one also encounters the same nuisances as that of telling a lie. Sometimes the truth hurts much more than the lie as the trust that was established has not only been jeopardized but has also been unexpectedly violated.
Engagement in such an act as lying where the stakes at risk – credibility, reputation and relationships with others – can potentially result in a negative outcome can also be equated, ironically enough, to the stakes at risk when one engages in truth-telling. I hope one does not take my analysis as one that condones lying because I am not in any way insinuating such. Instead, I am suggesting that everyone makes mistakes, whether it’s through lying or by telling the truth to the other person(s) involved that a mistake was done. Sometimes when one evaluates one’s own mistake the stakes of telling the truth seem to outweigh the stakes of telling a lie, similarly, other times it is vice versa. It is through self-reflection and self-evaluation that one determines and arises as the resulting decision of whether to engage in truth-telling or lying. It would seem that this leaves one at an impasse; what should one do when one must decide between truth-telling and telling a lie? By what standards should one base their decision on? How does one weigh which to gamble on? Maybe this is the secret to life, there are no definite answers, life is a gamble, mistakes are made and people move on, sometimes one learns, other times one simply reengages in past performances. I guess what concerns me most isn’t how one’s own actions may impact oneself, but rather how it impacts those around us, directly and indirectly, but ironically enough, do I always follow what I believe in or preach, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I would be lying if I said I always do.