Sunday, June 25, 2006

Can you lie your way to happiness?

"It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place."
- H. L. Mencken, American observer and critic of human behaviour (1880–1956)

Pretty neat observation, right? But there's a problem.

What did Mencken (through me) just tell you? Did he make an observation about human nature that may be a bit different than what you had thought before?

Did he provide you with a tool by which you can assess the truth of what others say in dicey situations?

Not to me. Mencken told me that he is a liar and that he has been known to lie on many occasions when the situation warranted it in his judgement.

Mencken was a keen observer of the human condition and, like Mark Twain before him, threw in wit to make the negative seem more palatable.

Enjoy the wit, but understand that neither Twain nor Mencken did a single thing to improve the somewhat twisted conditions about which they commented. That's a bit like conquering your enemy, then eating him, leaving the bones for other "lesser" animals.

I enjoy the wit of Twain and Mencken. But I wouldn't nominate either for a Nobel or a Pulitzer.

Laughing at the misfortunes or inappropriate behaviours of others may have its place. But its place is not among those who want to do things to improve those conditions.

Mencken all but endorsed lying as an acceptable behaviour. In your own experience, do you know even one situation where someone lied to another in which the person who was lied to did not feel worse once he or she found out about the lie?

We can avoid that unnecessary hurt by teaching children how to word the truth in ways that will not hurt so much as the awkward ways do. Lies hurt, eventually if not immediately.

Or we can applaud those who make fun of people and their behaviours and just let the "lying is natural" attitude continue.

No one completely trusts a person who lies, even if they tell the "harmless little white lie" type. No lie is harmless. It's deception. No one should trust anyone who deceives them.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to make truth the standard for all human relationships.
Learn more at

No comments: