Lying is something that I have to deal with every day of my life. Everywhere I go I’m confronted with liars. Perhaps the most delicate part of the scenario is the fact that most people don’t even know they are liars.
Popular belief says that everyone is a liar. We all lie, and if you claim you don’t tell lies, then you are the biggest liar of all. But I’m of the school of thought that believes that it’s possible to take a decision not to lie.
I’m not a big fan of theories. I believe in the practical aspects of life. Things I do, things I say, are all indicators of who I am. If I choose to ignore certain aspects of myself, I am a liar. If I choose to defend something that is not the truth, I am a liar. Everyone has different opinions right? Some opinions are lies and some are the truth. But im going to deal with what I consider to be the naked truth. No clothes. No shoes. Not even a wrist watch. Just bare assed naked truth.
Let me go back in order to go forward. I am a liar. The only way I can get myself out of that categorisation is if I can tell myself the truth. I’m a pretty good liar. I guess the reason why I’m so good at telling lies is because I grew up with parents that always speak the truth. I don’t have a fairytale image of perfection that most kids have of their parents. All I can say is that in my 23 years of life I have never heard my parents tell a lie… and they have never lied to me.
I’ve never quite met anyone as blunt as my parents. In fact I grew up hating the way they were cause I saw them as self righteous people who live in a bubble that really cant be compared to reality. I don’t like everything about them. There are aspects of their personalities that I would be hesitant to emulate in myself; but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that they were honest people.
My parents are relatively strict. Even though I often understood where they were coming from, that didn’t mean that I liked it. I know it’s good to tell the truth. I know I “should” tell the truth. But if my parents were to ask me the question: “What did you get up to today?” I would be a bit hesitant to say, I woke up, smoked some weed, watched some porn with the guys and fucked some girl I just met. Let’s just say that was a level of truth I wasn’t ready to appreciate. What would be the point? So I would get a lecture, get grounded and monitored on a daily basis? Na. I’d rather stick to the lies. Less dangerous and less problematic was the way to go. I didn’t need the stress that saying the truth would bring. As far as I was concerned, they couldn’t handle the truth, so why bother to tell them?
Make no mistake of it. I never lied by accident. I know exactly when im telling a lie and I know why I’m telling the lie. But that didn’t stop me from lying to myself though. You see I had various ways of justifying things. My mom would tell me, “Femi, don’t go to John’s house.” During the day I would ignore the instruction and I would go to john’s house. But I would go to other places as well. When I get home, my mom would ask, “where are you coming from?” I would mention the places I had been, but I would conveniently leave out the fact that I went to Johns house despite her instructions.
As far as i was concerned. I wasn’t lying. She asked me where I was coming from, and I told her. If she had specifically asked me if I had been to Johns house and I had said no, then that would have been a lie; but this wasn’t. We all know the trick. Conveniently leaving out information and convincing yourself that you are not a liar. I was the king of that. Self deceit can be a beautiful thing when you need to clear your conscience. But the truth of the matter is….. I am a liar. I knew exactly what my mom meant when she asked where I was coming from. I knew her question really was another way of asking: “Did you go to Johns house?” But because she didn’t phrase it in those exact words; I chose to give her an answer that suited me. The fact is….i am a liar. I knew what I was doing when I answered the question. I knew “what she meant” when she asked the question. And I took a decision…. to lie.
I went through great length saying that scenario in detail, because you would be amazed at how many people would not call that lying. After all, they mentioned all the other places they went to which were true, just because they left out one doesn’t mean they lied about it. Like I said…self deceit is a beautiful thing; it’s always there just when you need it the most. But ill tell you something. I stopped deceiving myself a while ago; especially in relation to lying. When I lie; I know I am lying. I don’t need you to define a lie, or create different degrees and extents of lying. I know when I’m telling a lie.
A lot of people accuse me of “over-thinking”. They say I think too much and too deeply about what they consider to be little things. But what exactly is a little thing? Is lying a little thing? I don’t consider it to be. People have a way of looking at lies in a way that is a lie. Surface level definitions that enable you to live comfortably as a liar without ever acknowledging it. “Who took my money from the table?” If you took it and you say you didn’t….you are a liar. That’s more or less a summary of how lying is viewed. And like I said… this view of lying is a lie in itself. So maybe for the sake of the discussion, I will invite you to “over-think” with me.
I went to a shop with a friend of mine and we bought a few things. There were a few distractions at the counter and we happened to leave with a lot more stuff than we had paid for. We were close to home when we discovered this. Looking at the receipt it was clear that we hadn’t paid for everything. So I decided to go back and return all the stuff. The friend I was with was amazed at my act of stupidity. As far as she was concerned, we didn’t steal the items. We had been given them for free by accident so it was their fault and not ours; so we had the right to keep them. A few years in the past I would have been the first to come up with that line of thought. After all, I didn’t go to the shop with the intention of stealing anything; it was just my luck that I had left with more items than I had paid for. But at this stage of my life… I “over-thought”.
If we had taken the items, and we had not known that we hadn’t paid for them until they were consumed, one might argue that it didn’t matter because we didn’t know. But in this scenario…we knew. The receipt clearly stated what we had paid for and what we hadn’t. As soon as that was noticed, if I had decided to keep the items…… I am a theif. There’s no two ways about it. No sugar coating or trying to make it sound any better than it is. I can’t claim that I didn’t steal those items if I didn’t return them. As soon as the mistake was discovered; I had a choice to lie to myself that it was not stealing…or I could return the items because they did not belong to me. So I went back to the shop and returned the items; much to the disgust of the person I was with. I could see that she thought I was stupid. I could see that she thought I was being way too extreme. But at the end of the day, im not accountable to her or even to the shop where the items came from. I am accountable to my father. He sees my heart. Lying to myself is not going to change the fact that I know the right thing to do.
The issue of self deceit runs deep. You can’t understand it if you only view things on the surface. I constantly ask myself all kinds of questions, and when I look back I’ve always known the answers. A girl invites me over. I know there is no one home for the next few hours. I know the girl thinks I’m cute and wouldn’t mind giving me a taste. But I tell myself nothing will happen. Ill go over, well chill, talk for a while, then im out. Somehow I manage to convince myself that im going with the purest of intentions. She is just a friend; nothing will happen. So I go there, and something happens. Then I tell myself, well I didn’t plan for anything to happen; I just went there to chill. But am I lying to myself? Did I not know what “could” happen if I went there? Can I really say I was unaware if her intentions…even if I had managed to convince myself that mine were innocent?
It runs deep. I have realised that I can never stop being a liar unless I stop lying to myself. If the issue is im ashamed of some of the stuff I do then I shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. I shouldn’t be giving myself reasons and excuses to lie. Not because I want men to label me as honest; but because my father requires me to tell the truth.
The phone rings and my girlfriend is on the line. She asks… “did you miss me?” The truth is we just spoke two hours ago. Between that time ive watched half a film and written four articles. The real answer to the question is no.. I haven’t missed you. But can she handle that level of truth? She hasn’t crossed my mind because ive been busy. There are times when she does cross my mind….but this want one of them. But if I don’t lie to her and say “of course I missed you”; its gonna make her upset, whether she shows it or not. So I tell a lie. Just so I can avoid a conflict. But why should I do that? Is it more important for me to please her…. or to please my father? So what if she gets upset? So what if she gets angry? Is the truth not better than me telling her lies?
It’s almost as though I am expected to lie. Lying makes long explanations shorter. “What do you think of this dress?” “Its ok”. The truth is I have never seen a dress so ugly in my life, but I cant be bothered to wait another hour while she finds another dress and puts it on. The lie saves time and effort; much more practical than telling the truth. But why am I like that? Should I care what people think? Should I care how people react to the truth?
My old man is not the easiest person to talk to. He’s one of those people that if you want to get along with him, you have to develop a thick skin. He has no regard for feelings. He is not tactical or sensitive in his approach. He tells you the cold hard truth. Your choice is to take it or leave it. As a child I hated it. The truth is not the most pleasant thing to hear. Ill never forget the day he looked me in the eye and said: “Femi. I love you; but I don’t like you.” That’s a hard thing to hear from a guy that brought you into the world. At the time I could admit I was probably not the most likeable kid. Always getting into trouble; arguing and fighting. What was there to like? But I still couldn’t get over the fact that he had said that. But since growing up I’ve realised a number of things. Even if everyone in the world lies to me. I can always depend on him to tell me the truth. Leave feelings, emotions and sensitivities aside. When I want to know the truth; my parents would be the first to say it without batting an eyelid. I’ve grown to respect that; because most of the people I know are not like that.
My old man is a tough cookie. When he asks a question, he wants a straight forward answer. Not necessarily an answer that he wants to hear…but an answer that “answers” his question. As a child I was very good at manipulating words. Its easy when you are dealing with people who are liars themselves, cause they often cant tell the difference. The conversation always starts somewhere and ends somewhere else. I was always encouraged to be a lawyer. With him it was never like that though. When he asks a question, he just wants the answer to the question and nothing else. Not an answer that you think he wants to hear; or an answer given in anticipation of the next question. He just wants the answer to the question.
I used to pretend that I didn’t understand the questions. Makes it much easier to lie that way. Unfortunately my stubbornness is somewhat inherited; so that never lasted long. But growing up it taught me something fundamental. Today when I ask people questions and they answer I can see the liars in them. I can see they know what I mean yet choose to ignore it. I can see that even though they have given me an answer…. It really isn’t an answer. Once again my habit of questions is interpreted as “over-thinking”; like im trying to psycho analyse people. The reality is I just want to hear the truth… rather than a statement of what you think I want to hear.
Ive realised that people cant handle the truth. People never look at “what is being said”. They always look at “how” the person is saying it, or possible reasons “why” the person might be saying it; or “who” is saying it.
You tell a guy Paul and Jesus are preaching different messages. You show it to them in black and white. Paul says A. Jesus says B. The discussion changes and the truth is ignored. The question then becomes “who are you to say what you are saying?” “Why are you criticizing the bible?” “Are you more holy than Paul?” All kinds of ridiculous questions that have absolutely nothing to do with the discussion. The question is “are they preaching the same thing?” Forget the tone being used to ask the question….. forget the reasons….forget accents and punctuations…. just deal with the truth that is staring you in the face. Are they the same or are they not?
Most people can’t do it.
That is why Jesus says that those who have ears that hear are blessed. Many people have ears; yet not many people can hear with them.
Most people can’t handle criticism. It took me a long time to be able to see and accept faults in myself. I always had the perfect reasons and defences. Now I know its all a waste of time. The tone of the person doesn’t matter. The age of the person doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if the person is saying it just to hurt me. What matters is only one question: “is the person saying the truth?” It doesn’t have to be packaged or presented in a way that I will like it. The important issue is “what is being said.”
I’ve lost a lot of friends because of the truth; but maybe the truth is they were never my friends in the first place. I can take a decision today to always say the truth and never look back. I can choose to accept all the consequences it brings. I can choose to be truthful the exact same way I chose to be a liar. I’m not going to let society lie to me by convincing me that I have to lie because I can’t help it. That for me is the biggest lie of all. If I want to tell the truth for the rest of my life, I can, and I will.