A colleague of mine was recently involved in a minor car accident. (Nobody was hurt, thank goodness.) She was aghast to discover today that the other driver lied in her report to campus safety. Not a little white lie, or a distortion of the truth, but a flat out, big, fat lie. It was a premeditated one, too, damn it. My friend is, naturally, infuriated. My first reaction was, my god, the guilt! If I told a lie that big, on an official accident report, no less, I’d develop an ulcer, I’m certain. Maybe that woman isn’t wired that way; perhaps when she thinks about her lie she’ll just feel a bit of a twinge–or maybe she thinks she’ll get away with it (fat chance, babe!) and she thinks she’ll be able to look back on it in triumph.
I’m too damn honest to live down something like that, even if I got away with it.
Which is not to say that I never lie. It usually doesn’t even occur to me to lie–I just try to come up with the most attractive way to put the truth. If I’m asked a question and I know that my response is going to hurt the other person’s feelings, I try to sidestep and change the subject rather than lying outright. However, I’ll tell a little white lie to squirm out of an invitation, sometimes. And sometimes, for no reason that I can really fathom, I will exaggerate a story, or invent details, to make it more interesting. I know at the time that I do it that I’m being stupid, and I’m going to feel bad about it afterwards, but I can’t stop myself.
How often do you lie? Do you feel guilty afterward? What stops you from lying: knowing you’ll feel guilty, or just being a basically honest person?