image by Mrkgrd

You know the scene from The Simpsons where someone is talking to Homer and his brain basically leaves the building?! How common that is! I have had times where I can feel my eyes glazing over as my smile is frozen on my face. The nodding gets slower and I start to fade. I give myself an inner slap on the virtual face to snap me out of this but it is clear to all around me that I’m simply not interested.

Nodding and not listening is, in effect, lying. It is telling the other person that you are interested when you’re not. Smiling when you’re not happy is a lie as is agreeing with something you don’t understand. Lies, lies, lies. We lie to make people happy, to keep the peace, to protect ourselves from humiliation, “Yes, I know what Klinefelter’s Syndrome is… NOT!” The idea of the perfect family is a lie cos people are people and there ain’t anyone out there who has a completely successful family! Is there?

The daily conversation of:

  • “Hi, how are you?”
  • “Good”

is a lie. It is certainly good manners but quite often hollow. Do you really want to know how that acquaintance is going or do you just need something to fill in some otherwise awkward silences? And are you really good? Surely there’s something that is bursting your bubble! How deeply intrenched we all are in this routine. It’s almost funny. What would happen, though, if we told every person on the street how we are really doing. For example, the plumber comes to fix your leaking toilet. In an completely honest world the conversation would go like this:

  • “Hi. How are you?”
  • “Oh, I had a bad sleep last night, the kids wouldn’t get ready for school, I’ve got my periods so I’m sorry if I snap at you. I really need some chocolate and I’m feeling really self-conscious about my weight. I’m going to a school do tonight and I’m nervous that I won’t know anyone and deep down I have feelings of insignificance and fear drives me to do things I don’t want to do. But the toilet is this way.”

Awkward silence. So when is it ok to lie? It’s a sticky one. Our culture would say that it’s ok to lie to protect feelings, to be polite, to protect your own self-esteem, to get out of difficult situations. What do you think? And how do we teach our kids about lying when we’re so good at it ourselves?