“Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.” The childhood chant follows us to our adult life. It seems there are many ways to lie. Some are even considered good. But a lie is still a lie – isn’t it? Can we actually lie in degrees? Our language would have us believe so.
For instance, a white lie is something we tell to keep from hurting someone’s feelings. Then there are the lies we tell to keep from hurting our own feelings – a fib. It doesn’t really hurt anyone, but it isn’t the truth, either. Which brings us to the half-truth. This is a little like determining whether a cup is half-full or half-empty. It all depends on how much you want to swallow. A whopper, on the other hand, is a shred of truth stretched into a lie. Hey, if a fisherman does it, how bad can it be? And then there is lying by deception. The line gets a little shifty here. It might be used as a practical joke or to manipulate someone into doing what we want. This shouldn’t be confused with a misstatement, which really isn’t a lie at all. It’s more like an ill-informed person with flapping jaws.
Gentle lies aside, we now change the tone to the bald-faced lie, which probably isn’t as messy as a dirty lie or even a filthy lie. Bald-face implies clarity, while a dirty lie muddies up the truth. A filthy lie must be a virtual pigsty. If we lie in court, it is called perjury. If we pass rumors about our neighbors, we are bearing false witness (or gossiping). And get this – if a lie is creative enough, we call it fiction. We scold our children for “telling stories” and then go out and buy one at the bookstore. How deceptive is that?
All this takes us to the ultimate lie, fabrication – sometimes referred to as a pack of lies or cock-and-bull stories. Fabrications are sometimes woven from a thread of truth, but they can be manufactured from anything. They are versatile in their use. Here is where the trail from truth takes a major fork. The right fork leads to creativity. The other shoots down hill to fraud. Those who take that route are called deceitful swindlers, using subterfuge to the point and intent of injuring others. We won’t go there.
All this meandering around the truth is exhausting. It is the road to nowhere driven by a fool. Anyone with a thesaurus has the roadmap. The only conclusion on this trip is that a lie is a lie – more or less. It all depends on how you want to use it.
A Commentary by
by Linda L. Rigsbee
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