I am a truly terrible liar.
This is not a claim to any sort of righteousness, of moral superiority. I don’t mean that I don’t lie; I do. Not often because, well, I’m about to explain that, but I have. I’m sure I will again. I don’t think I’m particularly good at it…but I also don’t think I’m a particularly bad liar.
No one’s ever called me out on a lie, but I’m not sure if that reflects my skill or the fact that they couldn’t be bothered (I mean really, how often do you bother calling someone else out? I never do, not even when playing ‘Cheat’/’Bullshit’… which rather defeats the whole purpose of the game).
Lying is part and parcel of partaking in this complex process we call life and is, I think, generally accepted as being a necessary evil.
In one sense then, proficiency at lying is a life skill.
If we accept that premise, you’ll see that my problem is actually one that causes a reasonable amount of detriment. I find lying physically painful. I’m not an anxious soul; I’m generally untroubled and free from fret. But lying, lying troubles me greatly. Even typing this, thinking about lying, is drawing my stomach up into knots and making my breath catch short within my chest.
These are little ripples of the affects I experience each time try to pull a sneaky one.
Shortness of breath. Nausea. A crushing sense of unbearable weight sitting on my breastbone, daring it to crack should an inhale go too deep.
These side affects don’t go away once a lie has been birthed. They grow, like a wave, into a tsunami, reverberating in my soul until the sum weight of them is too great to bear.
In year eleven, I lied to my formidable Ancient History teacher Ms Young. I told her I hadn’t completed some piece of homework (this detail I forget) as I had been helping my mum with my sister who was sick. This of course was untrue, I hadn’t done the forgotten piece of assigned work because I was seventeen and history homework ranked low on my list of priorities.
As lies go, it was a bit ‘my dog ate my homework Miss’ but there it was. It was said and off it went, sailing into out in the sea of shared human consciousness. Ms Young cocked her head, inspecting me, paused and then nodded; moving on with the rest of the lesson. That would have been the end of that wholly uneventful chapter but for the fact that I was sitting there, racked with paroxysms of paranoia.
My head spun, my heart fluttered, my palms were clammy. I don’t remember the rest of class. What I do remember is the overwhelming need to confess my transgression. Not to God, but to my mother. I suppose, growing up 110% atheist but instilled with the scorecard of Judeo-Christian morals, my mother was god. Or at least - judge, jury & executioner.
My mother declined to grant me absolution in this matter. She declared the size of the lie (tiny) and its affect on others (none) to be inconsequential – every lie mattered because every lie was a black mark on your soul. Every utterance of untruth (including by omission by the way) besmirches your very being.
Perhaps it is this idea, not of eternal damnation, but of a self, crumbling to ashes, that so terrifies me. Perhaps it is simply an example of Pavlovian conditioning.
Either way, I can report that explaining one’s deception is an awkward process for all involved. Particularly when the other person has to be prompted to remember the circumstances of the situation. Luckily high school teachers are skilled at nodding in a blasé fashion of general benevolence.
This crippling personality flaw has even seen me return inadvertently pilfered chocolate to IKEA (the store workers were so confused) as well as confessing a host of things to various people.
The only way I’ve found to manage this pure (well, pretty pure) honesty. But this is a weird beast fraught with its own concerns. When someone asks ‘what do you think of x?’ this approach will necessitate that you bluntly reply ‘x is a wanker’.
Lie your way out of that one.