All About Eve

Author: Barbara Smith

What is the most basic human survival instinct? Why, lying of course!

‘…The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.’

What a mighty statement. Taken from the oath sworn by witnesses called to testify in court, hearing this statement is as close as any of us might want to get to giving evidence in a court of law, and we all pray that this is something we may never have to do. But this statement is also as far away from what I wish to discuss, falsification or lying, and yet it is closely bound to the truth. In truth, the two are inextricably linked, if you’ll pardon my pun.

What exactly constitutes a lie? On closer inspection in my thesaurus I find a plethora of words such as, untruth, falsehood, fib, story, tall tale and even propaganda. Truth it seems is easier defined fact, certainty, reality. But when we step inside a court of law and are asked our version of events, that’s exactly what is given our version of events. No two people will ever tell the same tale. Think of the game of Chinese whispers played as a child. The story that comes out at the end of the chain varies considerably from the story put in at the start, albeit dependant on the number of players.

Why do people lie? For a myriad of reasons. To protect themselves is the basic underlying reason I would guess. To give themselves a greater chance of achieving whatever their end goal is. But that depends on the end goal. If, it is to get off scot free from a heinous crime, then that must be a great lie. If, it is to enhance ones chances of getting an interview for a job, then that is not such a great lie. But it is still a lie. It all comes down to a question of morals, the rights and wrongs of society that we are all programmed in as we grow from children to adults. H.G. Wells certainly has an appreciation of this fact when he says, ‘Lies are the mortar that binds the savage individual man into the social masonry.’ (1) Yet again though we are backed into a corner as to what we firmly state as right and wrong.
Let me illustrate one man may say, ‘It is wrong to steal things from work.’
Another man may say, ‘Well it’s not really stealing, I use them at home because of the nature of my work and it’s only a few paper clips, what’s the big deal?’
Which of the two is lying? You see, it’s not so easy to sit in judgment even on such a relatively small matter. It all depends on who you’re telling the lie to.

One thing I have learned speaking from the female perspective, especially where men folk are concerned, is that sometimes it is better to be economical with the truth rather than stir up more trouble with an out and out lie. At least when you haven’t told the whole truth, you cannot be accused of lying. The worst thing about lying is being found out, as I found out early on in life. I remember well the first time my mother caught me out in a lie. In a manner reminiscent of ‘Pinnochio’ I heard ‘the little voice’ inside my head saying What did you say that for? The feeling of mortification afterwards has rarely been repeated since, because all I have to do is recall the utter look of disgust on her face and those immortal words that every parent has uttered, ‘I’m very disappointed in you.’
Being economical with the truth means withholding, often a vital piece of information, perhaps even the key to the whole situation. Sometimes it can be sheer oversight, after all there’s only so much information you can carry. More often than not it is simply the one thing you don’t want to confess. Your fear is that this piece, this key could be the straw that broke the camels back. TMI is an acronym used frequently these days, ‘Too Much Information’.

Another example are the fads and fashions that are constantly being invented by the beauty world. Bigger breasts, tummy tucks, whiter teeth, elimination of wrinkles, hair dyes, even false tan! All lies, all fabrications, but most people don’t view them that way. They see these as enhancing their ‘natural’ beauty. There are few women on this planet who have never tried wearing make up and it seems that men are rapidly learning to catch up.

There are some who would say that it was all Eve’s fault, way way back in the garden of Eden. If she hadn’t succumbed to temptation none of us would be sitting here wondering about lies, falsifications and fabrications. I would say that it all depends on whose story you’re willing to believe.