by Kiy Pozzi
Children start lying at the age of three, and after that, it’s only an improvement.
We tell around 1.65 lies a day, give or take. Which is as absurd of a statistic as I’ve ever heard, because who’s honest enough to research this? I keep imagining some scientist draped in an impossibly starched lab coat with an “It’s Always Better to Tell the TRUTH” pin on the lapel. He carries around a clipboard all day and faithfully records his inconsistencies:
Note: 9:04 p.m. told my son mommy and daddy fight because they love each other. But I’ve been touring apartments, and my back can’t take this couch much longer.
Or maybe this data was provided by some god-like team. Some omniscient beings that meet once a week behind solid oak doors and a plaque that reads, “Purveyors of Truth”. They take their seat at the long board room table and tally all the lies that have been said in the world since they met last. They laugh at some of the more ridiculous ones, “how’d he think he’d get away with that”, and they pause on some of the more heartbreaking ones, staring at the space between their shoes and wondering how people can be so cruel.
As a teen, I had a habit of lying. You might even say it was a problem. Even a simple question like, “what did you eat for dinner last night?” could warrant half my daily average. I lied lines of invisible trophies up on my walls; I’d spin my words to make my life seem like a promising graph of exponential growth. But my Evangelical upbringing caused guilt to creep in from all corners. So I started carrying a rubber band across my wrist to combat such inefficacies. Each lie would stir me to draw the rubber back as far as it would stretch and send it careening into my skin. But as the red rings stacked up, I began to see them as guardian angels, or maybe just their halos. Each little white turned red began to signify a time I was protected from admitting the truth of the matter, a time a spirit intervened and let me escape relatively unscathed. I was both Pavlov and his dog: simultaneously conditioning and rewarding a faltering sense of honesty.
But this wasn’t just me. Once, my pastor provided an asterisk to the Ten Commandments. He spoke with the conviction of a southern summoning: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Thou shalt not lie.” He paused to let the holy words sink in, “I don’t know if I always believe in that.” Members of the congregation looked up from their knees and towards each other with faces of confusion. Was this blasphemy? He held out his palm in an effort to calm them down, “Now let me explain myself, folks. Imagine this. You’re with your family: your wife, your kids. You’re watching a movie, making dinner, etc. Suddenly, you hear a window shatter from the other side of your house. Someone’s breaking in. So you jump up, shove the kids under their beds, your wife gets in the closet, but you have no time to hide. The intruder hears the rustling, walks in, and finds you. He’s got on all black and a ski mask you see. Real scary looking. He takes a gun out of his pocket, points it between your eyes, and says, ‘tell me where everyone else is.’ Now should you go on and be a good Christian and tell him? Do you really think God would frown down on you for lying then?”
I’m asking you now. How often has the truth gotten you into more trouble than a little lie could’ve smoothed over? When Aaron heard me on a roll and asked, “how far are you going to take this?” should I have answered not much farther, or, more truthfully, as far as it needs to go. When Thomas told me, “I can’t trust anything you say anymore” should I have said, of course you can, or should I have said, you’re right. You can’t. Because this is who I am.
A lie is gloss; It is sheen. And again, I’m asking you: what catches your eye?