Lately, I’ve heard the word “lie” almost everywhere… “Big Little Lies” the love-it or hate-it HBO show based on a book, “Pretty Little Liars”, our current President… you get the idea.
Recently I was called a liar, myself. When I asked what I lied about, since I usually reserve my tall-tales for my fictional characters, I realized it wasn’t the event itself, it was this person’s PERCEPTION of said event. We experienced the exact same situation, and yet had two completely different outlooks on it. Huh.
So, this got me thinking a lot about lies, liars, and lying and where the line is between the truth and perception. Well, turns out it’s quite a blurry one. And I should know… I worked on a show called Lie to Me* (RIP).
We’ve all told tall-tales or exaggerations in our day. I mean, how many times have you told a friend you liked their sweater when you didn’t have any opinion about it at all (Mean Girls, anyone?) and didn’t want to hurt their feelings? Or in disagreements have said there’s nothing wrong because you don’t want to start a bigger fight and say something you might regret. We’ve all done it. Some more than others, but this is a basic human empathetic response. Maybe some people never exaggerate and are what we like to call “straight shooters,” but I’d also wager to say those people don’t have much empathy either.
Is this type of lie good? Not at all. But, I think we can all see that it’s also pretty harmless, right?
Now, there are the other types of lies that are just boldfaced, what-you-talkin’bout-Willis lies. These are not performed as an act of kindness or momentary reprieve because they are at the benefit of the liar themselves. Maybe they’re harmless, or maybe their hurtful and cruel. Either way these lies are so harmful because that are not done out of goodness. They are done out of preservation. And here’s where it gets real tricky, folks: when a lie is made out of preservation, it completely alters everyone’s perspective. There’s nothing to ground this kind of lie into reality, so everyone must rely on their own perspective to interrupt it. And you know what makes it even more confusing? Perception is uniquely suited to each individual person. I may react to the color blue in a positive and loving way because it reminds me of my husband’s eyes (cue the vomiting), but someone else may have a sad reaction to blue because it reminds them of their favorite blanket they lost as a child. But, it’s still the color blue. See what I mean?
And that brings me back to empathy. With an empathetic eye, we can see both sides of the situation. That doesn’t mean both sides will agree and breakout a guitar to sing “Kumbaya” together, and when the leader of a country is constantly sprouting lies and half-truths to suit his whims, that can be extremely dangerous. But, if you learn the reason for the lie, it certainly makes it easier to understand and weed out the real truth.
And maybe that’s how we’ll all be able to survive in the age of Alternative Facts.