Friday, 13 May 2016

The Anatomy of a Lie

Everybody lies, and still, we're always asking why.

Everybody can lie to protect themselves or other people, everybody can lie by omission, and everyone can inhibit the truth.

My problem is that I'm allergic to burying the truth.

I'll admit, I can tell a little white lie if I have to. Occasionally, a lie is necessary. Sometimes, it's sweeter to swallow.

I don't so much have a problem with the cloudy little concealments that are integral to the everyday survival of our lives and relationships. What I have a problem with is a lie that proves me right about someone who has the ability to hurt someone. The lie that proves they haven't changed.

When faced with an uncomfortable situation, I tend to play with my hair and avoid saying what I need to say. I've never been equipped with a steel poker face, and I've never been able to keep my voice at a human level of indifference. I hit new decibels when I try to lie, and sound somewhat like a stressed out guinea pig. There's this part of my neck that patches itself red when I'm stressed, a symptom of my intolerance.

Of course, a lot of people lie. Strangers and children, parents and partners, everybody has a reason to shape the truth. Then there is the epidemic of Chinese whispers and office gossip. I can comprehend the shading of reality from time to time.

The self serving lies are the ones that leave me stumped. The fraudulent kind that lead you to think you're dealing with a completely different person, the type cloaked in friendship.

A few weeks ago, I found myself exposing a lie from a friend.

To distract myself from the surprise, I split it down the middle and pulled it apart, dissecting it word by word in an effort to find reasoning. This wasn't the first time. I searched it's flesh and bone, I looked for malignancies. I wanted to justify it, but I only found negligence. Most people lie for one reason - because they can.

I've always possessed the ability to extract information from others, and trap people in their words. After all, I love stories. I pay attention, and make notes in the margins.

This is where people usually slip up. As time goes on and the story repeats itself, small details alter. Quotes are disjointed, facial expressions go slack. The more you hear the story, you more you can identify fragments of forgery.

Some untruths are so fictitious that you can identify it instantly. We've all heard stories that are so far-fetched that they trip up on their own hyperbole and chinks in narrative. A bad lie can strangle itself with exaggeration.

To be a good liar, you have to be believe it yourself.
To be a great liar, you have to be smart.
This time, they weren't.

Sometimes, you have to feel for someone who has to hide behind fiction. At their worst. they become trapped in a world that isn't real, but one they've built for themselves. A liar's home is a house of mirrors, with the comfort of a different face in every reflection, a different voice to threaten every vulnerability.

Research shows that most people lie at least once or twice a day. Lying is as much of a daily ritual as brushing your teeth, or calling your mother. The tricky part is determining when someone is using you to fill their quota, rather than lie for good reason. A smaller, self serving tale is almost impossible to detect.

What gives someone the ability to lie? Studies in 2005 demonstrated that pathological liars possessed up to 26% more white matter in the pre frontal cortex, arming them with the cognitive capacity to make connections with thoughts not tied to reality. It's pretty interesting when you stop taking it personally and look at the science behind it. The problem is that a lie is always personal.

Over the years, I've found that compulsive liars aren't usually aware that they are delivering a distortion of the truth. If you confront a liar, they'll lie again. Or they'll say they don't remember. They'll cover up a lie with another lie, and it becomes a very frustrating cycle. Lies will smother a liar, until no version of the truth survives.

I tend to give liars second chances, and they've always come back for a second burn. I believe that people can grow, and I believe that people can find their own truth. Sometimes we fail, and that's okay, because at least we both tried. Sometimes a second chance means forgiveness, but not trust. There are always several versions to a story, but the truth is always sat in the middle of it. The truth will set you free, but first you have to find it.