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September 19, 2020

Worthy to Print Column: Liar, liar pants on fire

By George Worthy, Gonzales Columnist

Today I would like to tell you that the emergency is over. I’d like to say that you can go anywhere and be with whomever you want. No more masks and spacing to worry about. I’d like to tell you that a couple of power mad politicians did not move elderly men and women who had no symptoms of coronavirus into hospitals filled with elderly that did have coronavirus and vice versa. I’d like to tell you that the cretin that placed his knee on the neck of George Floyd, paid his dues and so the riots have ceased. I’d like to tell you all that and say something nice about today. 

But geez, there is nothing about the situation we are in that I can even lie about and make it better. Yes, I would like to tell you that, but I would be lying. I’m not going to tell you that because I don’t want to be a liar. Well, I try not to lie but sometimes, well, you know. Because like every other human I know, we begin to lie when we are very young. But if one of your children lie, don’t get too mad. They learn to lie just like you did. Or, maybe you are one of the special ones that never lie. The fact is we learn to lie for many reasons. 

I’ll try to point out a couple of those reasons and see if you believe it or not. I don’t think any parent teaches their children to lie. So why do children lie? Even if you don’t tell lies and you trust that your children will never lie and you even make sure to set an example for your children that lying is bad, they lie. A huge study done by a fellow named Paul Ekman, an academic from Berkeley, actually came up with nine different reasons we all lie. 

I thought it might be appropriate what with all the lies floating out of Washington about the coronavirus and the end of the world that is coming we might look at why. The number one reason we lie is to escape being punished. I’m certainly guilty of this kind of lie. When I was one of four boys, something was always getting my dad’s goat. “Did you turn the water off outside?” My Dad would then add, “Did you mow the lawn?”

It was one of my duties, but there were so many wonderful things a young boy can do besides watch the clock to see when the water is supposed to be turned off. I didn’t even think of it as a lie, but I would just say, “Yeah, Dad.” It wasn’t like I wanted to lie, but it just came out. In the morning my pop would be angry with me all day, so of course I would say, “I sure did, Dad!” I truly believe that I didn’t lie to my parent a lot of the time.

The second reason we lie is “To obtain a reward not otherwise readily obtainable.” Not many rewards available to my family in those days, so I can’t remember telling a lie to get something. However, the third reason is “To protect another person from being punished.” Man, oh man, I can still remember some of the lies I told to my parents concerning my older brothers. They were older than me and so they could go out and do something really stupid and I didn’t want to be the one that contributed to their punishment. 

The next reason may be the one that I was guilty of more than any other lie: “To protect oneself from the threat of physical harm.” Who wouldn’t lie if it meant they wouldn’t get their butt beat? Perhaps you grew up in a time or place different than me. Maybe you never had a reason to feel that you would be punished, and when I say punished I mean physical pain. My dad was from the “spare the rod, spoil the child” camp. 

Mr. Ekman goes on to point out that, “We lie to win the admiration of others,” “To get out of a awkward social situation,” “To avoid embarrassment,” … I got to wondering about this because my wonderful children all knew how to lie at a young age, and like almost every parent, I hated it. Just about the time we start telling each other that this child or that child doesn’t lie, they come in with a whopper.

I guess I can say that, but it meant nothing to me back then. I just wanted my mom to be OK and for my little brother not be embarrassed. I told lies to get a job, and I really didn’t have to. I told the school officials that my dad was ill and I had to stay at home to take care of my mom. Yeah, it was a lie, but it was a small one. 

Since then I have learned a lot more about lying, and you know why? My daughter and my two sons. I sometimes wish God had made me smarter, so I would be the example to them of being honest. Not just with others but to themselves. I tried to try to teach them that lying was bad. I guess I didn’t do the best job, but I’ll bet a lot of folks reading this also feel awkward because their children lie. All I can say is you are not by yourself. When they realize it does nothing to enhance their lives, they’ll probably get over it.

God Bless.

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