Lies, Lies, and More Lies

Are lies ever acceptable? Are there certain lies that can never be forgiven?

I taught a college writing course for freshmen a few years ago. It was an interesting course: every semester, two books on a random topic were selected and the students would write a series of papers, responding to prompts.  One semester, the topic was Lying.

We discussed and they wrote about reasons people lie. In writing about their own lying, most justified their words and actions – to avoid punishment, fines, relationship issues, revenge, etc. Some students regretted their decisions…often because the consequences for being caught were far worse than if they’d told the truth in the first place. Some still looked over their shoulders, wondering if they’d ever be found out.

Of course, when the tables were turned – they were the ones lied to – the tolerance level was much lower. Despite the inconsistency of their thinking, many students still felt it was okay for them to lie but rarely acceptable for others to lie to them. (My favorite student, Ben, wrote about how his father had lied to him in telling bed-time stories about “Doris the Moo Cow.” In a wonderfully formatted, tongue-in-cheek-yet-dead-on-topic paper, he wrote that his father had deliberately lied about Doris’s adventures – a cow couldn’t drive a car or talk or live in a house like people do! Ben wondered if he should forgive his father for the blatant lies; he wondered if he could trust his father about other things like vegetables being healthy and doctor shots hurting just a little.)

But in my new novel, Between the Lies (due out this fall), the deception goes much further than manipulating a little boy’s imagination. Some of the lies will save the individual telling them; some will save others. Some of the lies are to block out a horrible past; others are to avoid a dangerous future.

Is there a situation where lying really is the only path to freedom or redemption or safety? When is the risk of a lie preferable to the risk of telling the truth?

The motives of each character’s lies will, I hope, remain a mystery to readers until I choose to reveal them. By the end of the novel, some of the characters will be despised, while others will be forgiven. As readers turn the pages, more and more truths will be revealed…Between the Lies.

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2 Responses to Lies, Lies, and More Lies

  1. Intriguing. 🙂

  2. CA

    We were told, in another era, that there were “social lies.” These would include telling someone the new haircut looked good — when, in fact, it was most unflattering. In stating a personal opinion, it does not seem important to be truthful if it would possibly hurt someone’s feelings. Other lies, substantive ones, are the beginning of more trouble. It’s best to say nothing.

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