Monday, April 19, 2010

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

The conversation went something like this:

Me - "So, they're just going to keep lying?"
Friend - "Oh, they're not lying."
Me - "Withholding information is lying."
Friend - "No-ho-ho! No it's not. I don't tell you everything."
Me - (jokingly) "What kind of unethical people are y'all?!"

After that point, I didn't give the conversation much thought until much later. Since then, though, I've been mulling the issue over. It's been ingrained in me my whole life that omission, not just fabrication, is lying. But my friend has a good point. Do you have to tell someone everything to keep from lying? If she doesn't tell me what she had for breakfast, who she talked to on the phone, & where she went after supper, does that mean she's lying? Not if I'm not entitled to that information. So then, what exactly constitutes a lie?

My first stop in resolving this issue for myself was Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language. It was a wedding gift from my brother- & sister-in-law. Upon giving it to us, they said that it's very important to have an accurate definition of words, for they do shape our lives & families. I heartily agree. So, what did Mr. Webster have to say about lies? Lies are an "intentional violation of truth"; their goal is "to exhibit a false representation; to say or do that which deceives another, when he has a right to know the truth, or when morality requires a just representation"; they are "a false statement or representation. . .intended to deceive, mislead, or injure". I think this speaks for itself, & makes it quite clear that omissions that fit these definitions are, in fact, lies.

To really drive the point home, though, I've come up with a few scenarios that, I hope, highlight how simple omissions can "deceive, mislead, or injure":

1) I pull up in Amanda's driveway & park my car next to hers, apparently a little too closely. When I open my door, it accidentally hits her passenger door & leaves a scratch. I don't tell her, though, because I don't want to upset her & possibly ruin our time together. A week later, she tells me that someone at the grocery store must have opened their door into her car, because she's just found a scratch on her passenger side door. Once again, I say nothing about the fault being mine.  Now she has to pay to have it fixed.

2) Beverly knows she's not allowed to touch her mother's china. It was passed down to her from her grandmother & is very special to her. She only uses it on holidays or particularly meaningful occasions. But, she's only going to take one quick look while the plates are sitting out for tomorrow's dinner. Mom's out getting the mail; it'll only take a second & she'll never know. As she picks up a dinner plate, she accidentally drops it. It doesn't completely break, thankfully, but it does have a small chip on the back of the rim. She quickly picks it up, puts it on the bottom of the pile, & scampers off just as her mom comes in. She never says a word, even when she hears her mother lamenting over how she must have chipped it when she was washing it as she's cleaning up after dinner the next day.

3) Sarah is a 15-year-old girl from a loving, stable home. David is a 19-year-old boy who is nothing but trouble. Sarah's parents have met David & taken an instant dislike to his arrogance, rudeness, & over-all rebellious attitude. Not to mention he's almost a man, while she's barely a teenager. They can't fathom what has attracted Sarah to him. They tell her their concerns & forbid her to continue the relationship. She pretends to comply, & they believe her.  They don't want to upset her - they know she really liked him - so they don't bring the subject up again.  She lets them remain blissful in their ignorance, never telling them that she's continuing to talk to him on the phone after they're asleep at night & that he comes to see her at school before classes begin each day. After all, what they don't know won't hurt them.

The ultimate goal of a lie is to deceive someone, to lead them away from the truth. Fabrications do the job well, & so do omissions. When we have information that directly affects someone & we withhold it from them, that's a lie. If it was my car that got a scratch, I'd want to know that it was an accident caused by my friend. If it was my china that got a chip, I'd want to know that my daughter accidentally did it while admiring her future inheritance. And if my 15-year-old child was secretly dating a "bad boy", I'd want to know that, too, so I could nip it in the bud. I'm betting you would, too.

Stop, drop, & roll.


Jennifer said...

Hey, Girl! I always read when I see you have a new post, but don't usually comment. Did you ever read on my blog about my BIL and SIL's journey to children? It was long, devastating at times, and very painful, and at times still is, but they have been blessed in remarkable, miraculous ways with 2 children they adopted as newborns domestically. I often think of you and pray for the day that you will be blessed with children. I believe it's Him that gives us this desire, and when He gives us the desire He will make good on it!! I've got single girlfriends who are still dreaming of and waiting on their "Michael"! While I have the husband and children, their are still things that God is using in my life to draw me closer to Him. Sometimes it's such a very painful process, but always remember He has a plan and a good purpose for these things! Love you!

The Boyds said...

Hey back! I always read your blog, too; I check it every day. I'm so thankful that things are going so well for y'all! I did read about your BIL/SIL & appreciated it. I thank you so much for your prayers. They mean the world to me. Know that I pray for you often, too. I do believe that God is working out His plan & that it will be far better than I can even imagine. He's given me such peace about our situation regarding children, & I know that He'll guide us down our path. Thanks so much for ministering to my spirit. I love you, too!