When I was a kid, my mother wouldn’t lie to my friends and tell them I wasn’t home.
This was particularly frustrating to me because one of my friends would call incessantly. She would ring the phone off the hook. Sometimes, and I’m not exaggerating, she would call once an hour.
My mother, an honest to a fault woman, would never tell the insignificant fib that I was not home, and could not come to the phone. I had to tell the person on the other end that I did not want to talk to them, at 14 when that was something really hard to do because “everyone needs to like you.”
Honesty was bred into me. I know that human beings tell little fibs every now and again, but I don’t. I aim to have everything that comes out of my mouth be 100% true (and since I’m sober now and don’t forget half my nights, that isn’t a difficult task.)
What’s hard about it all is that when you don’t lie, it’s really hard to spot a lie. Sometimes I’ll get messages from friends that say things like “I doubt this person is telling the truth about this,” and for me, I wouldn’t know the difference. If I say I’m doing something, I am, so why would I lie about it?
I do ten mile runs quite frequently. I have no reason to lie and say I did a run when I didn’t. When it comes time to race, the work I put in is going to be evident, so there’s no need to embellish.
Same with the way I eat — I follow a good nutrition regimen, but there’s no reason to lie on the rare occasion that I don’t eat well. My physique demonstrates that the proof is in the (lack of) pudding.
When I say I live in “a world of liars,” I don’t just mean pathological liars. I know a few of those. Everyone knows a pathological liar but to “call one out” is pointless because the lies they tell aren’t usually about deceiving you, but rather about the things they need to feel for themselves.
I’ve known liars who have told me tall tales of cancer diagnoses that never turned into anything. One of my old friends used to get drunk and make up random, very aggressive ailments that would surely have put him in his grave years ago.
I have other friends who have obtained prestigious performance gigs that just… never happened. All of these things aren’t so much about what I think, but rather the lies these people needed to tell themselves to get through the day.
This is just part of what I mean when I say I live in “a world of liars.”
I’m mostly talking about the little lies, the fibs, the embellishments; these are the sorts of lies my father told.
I’m a lot like my father in almost all other ways. I love stories, and I love to go out and talk to new people and learn about their life experiences. I’m very charismatic and I can strike up a conversation with almost anyone.
Unlike my father, I never ever tell my stories untrue to the facts.
Something about straying from the facts just makes the story less powerful to me. For example, I owe about $150,000 in student loans. It’s a tremendous burden and affects every facet of my life. If someone came up to me and said they too owed that much money, but really, they only owed about $25,000, well, that’s a very different burden and a very different story. Their lying about their struggle disaffirms my own.
Same goes for events that take place in life. One time, I was sitting at a bar I was a regular at in Times Square and a man had to be escorted out. The man went into the street, pulled down his pants, and took a shit right in the middle of the road. (I have a photo.) Now, if someone were to say they also experienced that, and they didn’t, it would make my story seem less significant, like this was a common occurrence, when it is not.
(I have seen someone shitting in public twice since I’ve been in New York City, but I wouldn’t say twice in twelve years is a common occurrence.)
There’s also the career lies.
People lie on their resumes. I’ve been told “everyone does it.”
I don’t lie on my resume. Maybe that’s where my past failures to “look good on paper” came in.
Recently, I paid a lady to spruce up my resume, because the language of self-promotion feels so sleazy to me. Everything she wrote was factual about things I had done, except for one line.
It was about a task that I had done in the past, but the timeline made it seem like it was recent. I had every capability of doing the task again. If any employer were to call any of my supervisors and ask if it was true, they’d undoubtedly say “absolutely, Andee did that.”
But… I didn’t do it. So I took it out.
The same goes for references.
TWO of my friends have been “references” for friends of theirs trying to get jobs. Both of them were listed under a job title they never held, and both were called and delivered a great recommendation to the prospective employer.
Apparently, this behavior is common.
I, on the other hand, reached out to supervisors in my company when I needed references. They all were impressed with my work and promised to deliver great recommendations for me.
I feel a lot of anger about people who did this dishonestly. Even though I worked hard and I have real references who want me to excel, I find it unfair that people who worked less hard to make those connections can just put any name down on a resume with a bullshit job title, and employers will just accept that at face value.
The world is full of liars who want a free lunch, and my ethics won’t allow me to be that way.
I have trouble understanding the balance in what an acceptable lie is, and what is outright bullshit. For that, I try to avoid the lies all together, but I’m finding that a certain degree of lying is what moves people forward.
A friend of mine, IT guy, sold his first fileserver for 40,000 dollars at a time when nobody knew anything about fileservers. He charged his client, took the payment, and then thought “fuck, I better learn to build a fileserver.”
He didn’t fuck over the client, though. He bought a book, taught himself, and built them a great fileserver. Apparently Bill Gates had a similar strategy when selling what we now know as MS Dos to IBM.
Then, you have people like an acquaintance of mine who has paid everyone under the sun to make graphics, build web sites, and do intro videos for YouTube, for a brand that really sells nothing. It’s a true house of cards, but where is the line when it comes to sales?
I think the line is- do you have the skills? And if you have the skills, is it then OK? My friend had the knowledge and skill set to build a fileserver. The acquaintance of mine has no skills.
As I try to jump face-first into this next chapter of my life, I’m constantly trying to combat my obsessive need to tell the truth in every detail of every part of every sentence. Sadly, though, I think it’s just something that is bred into me. I was reared with the foundational belief that telling the truth is important, and I value myself and my word because I do it.
I don’t aim to be the moral compass for the liars of the world, but I would like to part with telling them one thing- that most people do know that they’re lying, and are just being polite about it.