Friday, September 23, 2011

Lies Come in All Shapes and Sizes

In one of my favorite books, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, one of the main characters says the following:
There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft.When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife's right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth…”
Most people understand a lie to simply be a statement that when tried against reality turns out to be false. Popular lies include:
1. It’s not you; it’s me.
2. No, really. Your hair looks great.
3. Hampton is the real HU.

While I agree that the aforementioned statements are indeed lies, I also believe that lies come in many forms; my least favorite is the lie of omission which is just as disastrous as the conventional lie.

For example, fellas… let’s say you go out to one of these CBC events, meet a woman in a pencil skirt and a smile, discreetly check to make sure her ring finger is free of bling, and the two of you exchange information. Over the next month you get to know each other, learn each other’s likes and dislikes, religious background, relationship history, etc. One day, as you’re picking her up for a day at the Harbor, she waves you in. You walk in and trip over a tricycle.
You say, “Whose tricycle is that?”
She says, “My son’s. It actually used to be my daughter’s, but she grew out of it.”
You are floored. “KIDS?! You have kids?!?! You never told me that!!”
“You never asked.”

This my friends is an example, albeit an extreme one, of the lie of omission. As the saying goes, when you assume…. You know the rest. But I don't think that always applies. I believe it’s fair to assume some things. If someone doesn’t say “I’m married” and doesn’t have a ring on, it’s safe to assume that he or she isn’t married. If someone doesn’t mention kids after weeks of correspondence and time together, it’s safe to assume he or she doesn’t have any. If someone doesn’t tell you that he's allergic to cheese, you're not wrong for surprising him with lasagna!

A good friend of mine over at A Bachelor’s Pad disagrees. He believes unless you explicitly state a non-truth, you haven’t told a lie. This is a straightforward way of thinking about things, but it’s problematic, causes unnecessary drama, and leads to broken windows, shattered dreams, and bitter women who work at Fedex and have no sense of urgency or customer service. (Wait, did I just get personal?)

Here’s why this is an issue. Humans naturally believe if it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck, then that’s what it is. Many of us have learned the hard way that just because I hang out with him every day and he has a key to my house and I met his momma and we have a Facebook photo album together and you send me flowers at my office and you know that I pull my left ear when I’m nervous and all of our friends have become each other’s friends and I let you hold my hand in front of the entire class of 2007 at Howard Homecoming does not mean that we are together if it ain’t never been said. (Sorry, got personal again.) The assuming party bears some responsibility for not having an explicit conversation about the exact nature of the relationship. However, the party that knowingly lulls someone into this sense of security that really isn’t there is also wrong. You are allowing that person to believe a lie by facilitating the lie. By playing the boyfriend role, but down the road saying, “Oh… you thought we was together?”, you have told a lie. Sure, you never explicitly told an untruth, you just lived it. And that is a lie of omission with a little twist of deception.

Some liars (of omission) say, “I didn’t know that he/she thought we were serious. I was just doing my thing.” Or ”I didn’t know that the cookies weren’t free. They were just sitting out there in an open basket.” And most of the time, that's bee ess. But let’s say they’re being honest. Let's say they really thought the Cookie Store was giving away cookies for the day or that a girl who told you she was ready to start a family didn’t expect a serious relationship from you. Where then, is your sense of responsibility? Where is your common sense? Your ability to think in a way that is socially responsible and ethical? We have got to do better, people.

No one likes to be called a liar. Especially a liar. The best way to avoid being a liar though is to share the whole truth. Not the parts you find convenient. Be upfront. Not evasive. If you don’t want to deal with the aftermath of a confused or scorned lover/friend, make it clear what the relationship is. Otherwise, you’re walking into a mess and unfairly placing the balance of responsibility on someone else’s shoulder.

What do you think? Is a lie of omission a lie, or just selective truth? Have you ever been the victim of a lie of omission? Have you ever been guilty of rationing out the truth as best fits you?

And as a sidenote and question to the guys, if we’re supposed to be asking any and all questions, how would you feel if someone you’re dating asked if you were gay? Would you be offended? Are heterosexual women (and men) expected to assume that by nature of their heterosexual relationship or interaction, that that person is not gay? #imjustsaying

Check out the opposing opinion here ---> What's In a Lie?