The Paradox of Lying

I’m a liar. I’ll admit it. But it’s not all my fault. It’s also society’s fault. Society taught me not only to lie, but to lie well. It seems the only way to advance in this life is to gain proficiency in the art of lying. I have personally begun to notice that, when I lie enough, I actually start to believe the baloney that I feed everyone. I begin to believe that I actually like to do community service in Africa, that I love trudging through two feet deep snow to learn about the Mongols in History 100 and that I do so many extra-curricular activities for my own enjoyment. I am a liar, but that’s because society taught me to be one. But what exactly is “society?” Admittedly, this term is broad enough to resist most forms of colloquial definition. For my own purposes however, I merely need to look inwards at my own life and at the Andover community, both of which serve as microcosms of this widespread culture that perpetuates the ideology of lying. My life as a liar began by telling little lies like, “No, I didn’t try to cut my own hair” and “Yes, I drank my milk today.” Obviously, these were lies that my parents saw straight through. I got the mandatory talk about how lying was a bad thing to do and how I should tell the truth no matter what. But this only taught me to become better at lying. My techniques evolved alongside the methods my parents used to detect my falsehoods. Later on, I had to say things like “I really love this present,” when I was actually scared of that horrific-looking doll. I had to grit my teeth and say, “This tastes amazing,” when all I really wanted to do was spit it out immediately. These were my childhood standards of truthfulness, or lack thereof. We must hide our emotions for fear of offending others. Eventually, lying just came naturally. Our culture teaches us to smile when we are sad and to conceal our anger to avoid causing a scene. All this deception is not even considered lying anymore—just common courtesy. However, this is even worse than outright lying, because you are lying to yourself. I lied to myself by saying that I wanted to work myself to death all day and eat dinner at 9 p.m. for three years because I love swimming. I wanted to stay up every night to finish my deep analysis of Mongol horses, and I wanted to give up my free time to pick up disgusting trash by the lake. And sure enough, I eventually began to believe these lies. They slowly became reality. It wasn’t that all of it was untruthful. I actually did find these activities somewhat satisfying and worthwhile. However, my actions were fueled and condoned by society’s expectations. Andover, for example, rewards good grades to those who lie and tell themselves that they don’t need sleep. We eagerly buy into the idea that hurting ourselves now will help us in the long run. But is it worth the deception? After facing the bitter realization that I had lied to myself over the course of so many years, I was initially disgusted by my behavior. But I began to wonder whether my lies were so dangerous after all. Does it really matter that people at Andover are only doing community service for their own benefit, or that people are trying hard in school for a college acceptance letter rather than their own self-fulfillment? Either way, the end goals of helping those in need and gaining knowledge are still the same. Is lying a harmless or a terrible price for success? We face a paradox where lying could be portrayed as both a necessity to keep our society running smoothly and a corrupting distortion of reality. There is much more that could be said about this issue, regardless of which side one chooses to take. But I really want to finish all of my homework for tomorrow. Honestly! Christiana Nguyen is a Junior from Vancouver, WA.