What is Lying?

wiseGEEK Writing Contest

There is probably not a person alive today who has not told a lie or at the very least misrepresented the truth to some extent.It may have been unintentional or it may have been told to save someone else's feelings, but the truth is that humans have to capacity to lie. Even the youngest of children will lie if they feel that they can escape punishment by doing so. No child is born knowing how to lie, but he/she learns at an early age through the observation of parents or older siblings.

Lying takes several forms and is justified by the liar for so many different reasons. Perhaps one of the most used forms of lying is exaggeration. Most of the time these lies are told to impress someone or to gain "one up" on the person to whom he is speaking. Fish stories are great examples of exaggeration at its best.

It is understandable that someone who lives an anonymous boring life and who has never experienced any fame or admiration might formulate stories to either gain praise or sometimes sympathy for himself, but it is much harder to understand why prominent political figures would fabricate stories of accomplishments or brag about military service that never took place. The polical arena is packed with examples of famous liars.

Recently education has become infested by plagiarism. The problem has become so severe that colleges and universities have had to instate numerous new rules and regulations for the completetion of essays and term papers. The availability of these items online for a nominal fee has made liars and cheats out of many students who otherwise might not have been tempted to seek outside sources. The students who have plagiarized and been caught have given the reason that they did not have the time required in order to complete a good paper. It is obvious that these students are only cheating themselves, because their reputation at the school is destroyed and they themselves have lost the ability to think for themselves in the future.

Greed causes many people to lie. Obvious reasons might be for monetary gain, but many liars do it to obtains status and prestige for themselves or for others. Mothers, for example, sometimes lie and cheat in order to help their daughters become cheerleaders or models. These are sad stories indeed, because the mother is perpetuating the lying by showing the daughter that honesty does not always "pay".

One of the most insidious forms of lying is compulsive lying. This type of deception is so difficult for most people to understand. The compulsive liar will lie when there is no reason. In fact, in most cases the truth would serve them better. It is incomprehensible that there are men and women who actually enjoy lying and feel that it makes them superior to the person being lied to. This is a way for them to gain control over a situation or a person.

Is it possible for a person to live his entire life and get away with every lie he tells? The answer is that possibly for a while, but eventually the truth will win out. Once a trust is broken and faith is destroyed, it is only a matter of time before the person who has told so many lies will never be believed again. The sad part is that many times liars begin to believe their own lies and they become unable to distinguish reality from the world that they have created for themselves. The story of Pinocchio about a young boy who lied so much that he did not realize that he was lying. A spell was cast over him and every time he told a lie, his nose would begin to grow. If the same thing would happen to ordinary people who lie, there would undoubtedly be less liars in the the world and truth would eventually win out.

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth has always been the cornerstone of the American justice system. It is the foundation upon which men strive to determine the truth. It has served this nation well for many centuries and will continue to do so in the centuries to come, because it has its origin in the concept that the truth will set you free. Edgar J. Mohn stated it this way, "A lie has speed, but truth has endurance".