You're An Asshole And Everyone Else Is A Secret Super Sleuth

Posted by Lizzie on Monday, January 18, 2010
"The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it." - Flannery O'Connor

After painfully trudging through Wise Blood in 12th grade AP English, I cannot give Flannery O'Connor a second chance. Yes, the dissatisfaction lingers and it's just as acute as it was 5 years ago. However, just like everyone and everything else, I'll probably take that "never again" thing back and read Everything That Rises Must Converge. At the expense of my own suffering, of course. Regardless of how much I loathe her writing, that quote up there is definitely one that I live by.

Nevertheless, this blog is not about her. It's about truth. Not necessarily truth in the "having to deal with the realities of actuality" sense as the quote would suggest, but more so (for the majority of this blog) in the Nathaniel Hawthorne sense that your secrets will EAT YOU ALIVE at some point. Unless you have a pathological condition in which you feel no remorse. Read up on antisocial personality disorder to understand how that's cognitively possible. I guess O'Connor kind of covers the "reconciling with your conscience" thing too, but doesn't she beat you over the head with it like Hawthorne does. I really hate both of them so I'm not sure why they're at the top of my thoughts right now to the extent that I feel like using them set up what I'm about to say here. Let's just stop that nonsense and get to the point.

I believe in truth and honesty and openness more than almost anything when it comes to the people that I love. I mean, if you're a random and insignificant part of my life, then fuck you, yeah, I'm gonna lie. If it's advantageous to me to conceal the truth and you're nobody to me then I'm gonna lie in a fantastically convincing way because I don't actually care about you so that sinking feeling of hurting you or getting caught by you won't be relevant.

And even when it comes to my loved ones, I probably tell the truth for all the wrong reasons. It's a survival thing. It's an ego thing. It's getting what you want at the expense of absolutely everybody else thing. As much as we think we're in this for each other, we're really in this for ourselves. We do things because they make us feel good. End of story. But that doesn't nullify the fact that we have real connections with people and that there are some people we care about getting caught by more than others because we care about them more than the others. Basically, we care about ourselves number one, but we care about other people at varying levels and it's easier to lie to those we don't care about.

Do I really honestly truly believe that I tell the truth because I think people deserve it or because if we all told the truth the world would be a better place? No, probably not. This is probably just a superego cover-up for the subconscious truth that I just don't want to get caught. Because it is my understanding (based on experience) that if you lie about something big enough that you actually dread the moment when you will get caught, then you will most likely get caught at some point or another. This is sometimes referred to as the instant when "the shit hits the fan." And the longer you go without getting caught, the worse it is in the end. Lie about something for a day, whatever. But lie about something for a month or half a year or a year or 10 years and you're in "failed relationship" territory with the person that you lied to.

And even if by some seemingly fortunate twist of fate, you DON'T get caught (even though you probably will), the fact that you live constantly under some degree of pressure in terms of dealing with trying to avoid getting caught is even more of a punishment than being exposed may be. As Hawthorne (hate you) seems to indicate, coming clean is actually LESS painful than living with your "secret sin," if you will. It will build and you'll feel more pressure every time you're confronted by it. If that confrontation is frequent, you're gonna end up throwing in the towel for sure. And if there are any other people that know your secret, you also have to factor into the equation their potential behavior and as a result, you're just pretty fucking screwed. All of a sudden your dealing with a huge mindfuck.

Let's take cheating as an extreme example here (in pseudo-thought experiment form) to illustrate some of these vague and unsupported ideas. Person A and Person B here can represent a slew of non-cheating situations also in the sense that the decision to lie is basically made as a result of being presented with a set of incongruent choices that can't coexist. Cheating is just a clear situation that almost everyone understands so I'm running with it.

So, you're with Person A and you enjoy their company. But there's also this Person B who is appealing to you in some way as well. You don't want to lose Person A for what you have with them but Person B is just too compelling of an option to ignore. You care about both Person A and Person B so you decide you can have your cake and eat it too. You live for awhile seeming to enjoy the fact that you have them both. But there are, of course, costs. Nothing is free. If you get caught, you lose one or both of them. So, you try to avoid getting caught as much as possible which is also a cost because it can be taxing. You have the stress of covering your bases, being more secretive than usual, arranging times to be with both Person A and Person B at different times, accounting for their erratic behavior (say one decides to surprise you with dinner or something one day while the other one is over), et cetera. Even though you may learn to manage the situation on some level as most people do with almost all long-term stressors, the fact is that it could become a burden. Close calls, having to think fast in certain situations, et cetera. All of a sudden, are you really having your cake and eating it too? And in that moment that you get caught and lose part or all of what you wanted anyway, was it really worth it?

Moral of the story (because I don't feel like rambling on about this anymore or trying to explain things any more clearly) is that you PROBABLY WILL get caught if your lie is significant enough. And this will TOTALLY SUCK when your loved one or friend or whoever that you care about finds out that you lied to them. You might lose them. If nothing else, it's gonna hurt you to hurt them. And even if you don't get caught, you're still going to have to pay some costs. I guess, you just have to figure out if the sacrifice of lying outweighs the reward.

Maybe this doesn't apply to everyone or even anyone. Maybe I'm just way too goddamn truthful. But to me personally, living with guilt is one of the worst states to be in and it usually never even pays off because THE TRUTH ALWAYS COMES OUT and it sucks because you're no longer getting what you want (what the lying was trying to achieve) and you've lost a lot in the process.

In terms of the secrets about people that I know, most, if not all, of them emerge and the truth is exposed. And you never think it's going to happen, but it does. Just be straight. Seriously.

Keep in mind that the truth doesn't always change according to our ability to stomach it and that it sucks to both give it and receive it a lot of the time. But as I said before, the longer the lie goes on, the more painful and difficult it is to reveal. The truth hurts. But goddammit, being lied to hurts even more. Ignorance is bliss until you know the truth. Then it's like finding out the truth magnified by 10 or 100 or 1,000.

We're not compelled to tell the truth because we think people deserve it. We're compelled to tell the truth because we don't want to end up getting caught in our lie because we understand that having to come to terms with the truth is an unavoidable and unfavorable fate.



see also: http://www.smartmoney.com/spending/budgeting/why-havent-you-donated-anything-to-haiti-yet/

Lying and telling the truth are like hot and cold, or hard and soft. Depending on the situation, one is more appropriate than the other. All moral ambiguity aside, telling the truth is generally quite selfish. Most times it only makes you feel better, and deterioriates the overall situation so much that you wonder "wow, was it really worth it so I can sleep better at night?"

after mulling this over for a few days and briefly discussing it with you at the party, it still seems like lying is generally more advantageous than telling the truth... if telling the truth was selfish then everyone would do it... i dont think ppl are like truth vigilantes where they do it to enhance the moral quality of themselves like the "sleeping better at night" thing would suggest... and if there's a truth that needs to be said that hasn't been said, sometimes it just deteriorates the overall situation eventually anyway... like if you ran over my cat and i don't know that you did it, i just know that it got run over, then yeah, don't tell me (although it seems like in that example, you get to be selfish by preventing me from being mad at you and you get to be selfless by withholding the knowledge of what happened) but it seems like almost all other examples i can think of result in the truth being entirely selfless bc it seems like almost all instances of a truth vs. lie situation involve something that one person did that was bad... unless it's someone else's secret that you have to warn someone about or something like that, eh? the "truth is more selfish" thing just doesn't make sense... yeah, truth is hot and cold (you dont respond affirmatively to a fat person when they ask if they look fat in a pair of pants) but in general, it seems like truth is almost always more appropriate... even if the person on the receiving end doesn't want to hear it... i mean, discretion is a must or you'll break up every relationship you've ever had with someone but as long as you tell the truth with some flexibility of "you're entitled to your opinion and i'm entitled to mine" or "this is what happened and i'm sorry" then it seems like it's just better

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