The Little Lies We Tell Ourselves

Published: November 17, 2014

By Jim Lichtman
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In line to buy Boris Johnson’s The Churchill Factor (see Nov. 14), I spot a tantalizing little book by Lauren Hom, playfully entitled, Daily Dishonesty – the beautiful little lies we tell ourselves every day.

It not only made me laugh, it made me realize that all of us, (even us ethical folk) routinely tell lies of convenience. (Of course, specializing in ethics, I prefer to call mine: “necessary-creative-rationalizations-so-I-don’t-hurt-anyone’s-feelings, or have-to-do-something-I-really-don’t-want-to-do.”)

The idea for the book came to Hom in 2012 when she and a student roommate began trading things they wanted to do in their spare time. “I’m going to brew my own beer,” her roommate said.

Hom said, “I want to go to yoga every day and learn to make croissants.”

The two began laughing when they quickly realized that in their senior year of college, they had no free time. “As you read through this little book of lies,” Hom says, “I hope that you’re as guilty as we were, and that you can share a laugh about life’s small (and sometimes large) trials and tribulations!”

“Trials and tribulations?” …another great rationalization.

Here are some of my favorites from Hom’s book:

“I have read and agreed to the terms and conditions.”

“I can handle it.”

“I learned my lesson.”

“I am not a sore loser.”

“We can still be friends.”

“Sorry, I have a boyfriend.”

“It’s not what it looks like.”

“Things will be different this time.”

“Just one bite.”

“Me too.”

“I’ll call you right back.”

“No problem.”

“Make yourself at home.”

“It won’t rain today.”

“No offense, but…”

“This stays between you and me.”

“I know exactly how you feel.”

“It’s not you, it’s me.”

Reading that last one, reminded me of the hundreds of rationalizations used on Seinfeld. From the Center for Advanced Hindsight, here is George Constanza’s list of 14 “justifiable” lies:

1. It’s not a lie if you believe it.
2. It’s not a lie if it doesn’t help you.
3. It’s not a lie if it hurts you.
4. It’s not a lie if it helps someone else.
5. It’s not a lie if it doesn’t hurt someone else.
6. It’s not a lie if everyone expects you to lie.
7. It’s not a lie if the other person knows the truth.
8. It’s not a lie if nobody can prove it.
9. It’s not a lie if you don’t get caught.
10. It’s not a lie if you don’t need to tell another lie to cover it up.
11. It’s not a lie if you were crossing your fingers.
12. It’s not a lie if you proceed to make it true.
13. It’s not a lie if nobody heard you say it.
14. It’s not a lie if nobody cares.

This all supports the truism put forth by Marx:  “The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” … that’s Groucho Marx.


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