When I was in my thirties, both married and a father, I experienced some anxious and confounding work-related situations. These tend to happen when I don’t understand what people are telling me, either in the moment or in context to contrary remarks they or others have made in the past without any perceived reason for doing so. In other words, I get confused.
After talking on the phone to my mother about the situation, she simply said, “Some people lie.” I still remember how stunning it was to hear her say that. Somehow, it had not occurred to me that a person could outright lie to me, especially when it seemed pointless to not be honest when being honest wouldn’t hurt me any more than I already was. But, in this case, two people were telling me nearly opposite things, and clearly I was not as important as them saving face.
Note that I said nearly opposite. The two people left open enough room to deny their intention was to be misleading. It was clever in that respect, but they blamed each other for causing me problems. I wondered if they were in cahoots, if not explicitly than out of implied necessity for themselves.
Even still, I don’t understand why one of them would have lied. It seemed like there literally was no need to do so. After all, they were clearly frustrated with me – though they didn’t want to clearly explain it. Also, there were major circumstances out of all of our control, an easy explanation for both of them. Why, then did they (or one of them) lie?
There is plenty of research on why, how often, and to whom people lie. Much of it supports what seems reasonably intuitive and logical (always a good thing), with some exceptions (naturally). One is the amount of lies the average person tells. Most of these are “little white lies,” such as telling someone you like what they are wearing. There is still an inherent danger to these lies. They can build up over time and create a completely false sense of reality. And, if you deliberately lie about small things, it gets you used to doing so.
I can accept that there are times when, if one considers every factor, being untruthful could be the most merciful and just action. Even for those with ASD, at a certain point, it’s going to be difficult to justify why telling the truth makes sense or is even moral if it means an innocent person will needlessly die. Should telling someone the truth take precedence over destroying their life? “I’m just being honest” tends to coincide with someone getting hurt, and the honesty is what hurts.
Then, there are times when being honest absolutely hurts, but it is going to keep something from hurting worse. When a doctor gives you bad news, it’s honest, but it’s so you can prevent potentially worse news later. A teacher telling students that their test grades are bad may not be met with enthusiasm, but it can hopefully keep from ending up with a bad grade. In these cases, not being honest – or disclosing – information would be a mistake and unfair.
But . . . lying intentionally is still not an entirely natural or intuitive concept to me. In other words, it takes a good deal of reasoning, accepting things I don’t want to be true and reluctance to abandon the desire to be honest.
Acceptance. That’s not easy. When I look at the big picture, I have to wonder what about not just others but also myself I don’t accept. What don’t I even realize? What could I be lying to myself about?!
Since the time I was fairly young, my father liked to say I couldn’t lie. My brother, on the other hand, according to him, was capable of lying without giving it away. That certainly is the recollection we all have, but what does it mean? Why would he lie, and I would not? We have different personalities, and maybe that was his way to get what his brain was telling him he needed. Could he have told lies because nothing else was working?
Do people lie as a first option? My guess is that most don’t. They try to tell the truth, and if that results in censure (from a very early age), it may be too painful to do it again.
This is so complicated! And, that’s really the problem – like seemingly always. There are too many options and to great of a desire to not get it wrong! I think many people accept others will lie, no about small things but also big ones.
My honesty has both helped me and gotten me in trouble, sometimes both at once. My desire to figure out what a person is telling me, i.e. being honest or not, comes from being taken advantage of my entire life. Sometimes I figure out I’ve been duped right away, but sometimes it takes years or even decades. More about that is coming up in the next post: My ASD lets people take advantage of me.