I have a PhD in psychology and four years of medical school under my belt. I played major league baseball for the Phillies back in the 80s. And I recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature. The reason I rarely mention any of these incredible achievements is because they’re all lies. None of these happened – except for the bit about playing for the Phillies. But I only lasted one season, so hardly worth mentioning.
You see, I’m a professional liar. I make my living by lying, by which I mean humor writing. Last year alone I grossed $3 million as a humor writer. (It’s possible that the previous sentence was a slight exaggeration.) So, when it comes to deceiving others, trust me. I know what I’m talking about.
Everybody lies – unless you’re a dog. Dogs rarely lie – unless they can blame it on the cat. Actually, dogs lie all the time – on the couch, on the bed… But we humans deceive without even thinking. Case in point: When my wife asked if I liked her blouse, I gushed “Oh yeah!” That was a bold-faced lie. I hate the color mauve. (Or was it a bald-faced lie? Or barefaced? Beats me.) My point is that people lie – all the time. But why?
Lying is as old as mankind. Harvard researchers believe the first documented fabrication took place over 20,000 years ago, as evidenced by a cave painting depicting a man extending his arms wide to indicate the size of the fish that got away. (Okay, I fibbed. It was actually University of Phoenix researchers, but Harvard sounded so much more impressive. My bad.)
Our country was founded on falsehoods, starting with George Washington, who famously uttered, “I cannot tell a lie. I did cut the cherry tree.” Well, turns out that story was fake news. It never happened!
People mislead and falsify to gain advantage over others or collect unjust rewards, such as Bernie Madoff with his Ponzi Scheme, or Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France, or me anytime I golf with my buddy Kevin. But in my defense, I only cheat when we’re playing for money.
Some people lie to exaggerate their achievements and inflate their image. To explain this increasingly common phenomenon, read any random tweet at: @realdonaldtrump
Sometimes people prevaricate to cover up bad behavior, like during the 2016 Summer Olympics, when American swimmer Ryan Lochte claimed he was robbed at gunpoint at a gas station. In reality, he was drunk and urinated outside a gas station bathroom where he got caught in the act by a security guard. Lochte used extremely poor judgment. He should have bribed the guard to back up his cock and bull story with free passes to his Olympic swimming events. Problem solved.
From my own extensive investigations, I’ve concluded that spreading disinformation is deeply woven into our DNA. In a typical day, Americans lie six times. The average Frenchman lies ten times. And the Russians? 37 times. Or you could just pick a number – like I just did above because I ran out of time to research it.
A Danish study on the human proclivity to deceive found that kids master this skill as early as three years of age, usually to avoid punishment or gain favor. This just shows that Danish kids must be developmentally delayed, because my kids had figured out how to lie to my face by eleven months.
We dupe our co-workers, our friends, and even our kids – but often for very good reasons. Parents perpetuate the Santa Claus myth to fill their children with glee (I still can’t fathom how he gets by our burglar alarm system). Kids tell tall tales to test their independence. And God forbid we should hurt someone’s feelings by saying what we really think. And I lie to my wife about my back acting up again to get out of mowing the lawn. My point is these are all perfectly good reasons.
While people have been mendacious ever since Eve told Adam, “Try the apple. It’s perfectly safe,” it appears that our vulnerability to dissembling has never been greater than it is right now, thanks in part to social media, Chinese hackers, and my dentist, who said repairing my crown wouldn’t hurt a bit.
Our ability as a society to separate fact from fiction is under unprecedented attack. For example, I just read a 500-page book that says that 75% of Facebook posts containing a political message have factual inaccuracies – which, of course, is a lie – I’m way too lazy to read a 500-page book. But it’s true that much of what you see on the internet is an exaggeration or an outright falsity. I just read a post on Twitter by some dude claiming – wait for it – that he’s directly related to Jesus. Ludicrous! Who concocts this kind of nonsense? Um, wait a minute. Now that I think about it, that might have been me.
Some people’s jobs require them to lie. These people are known as Members of Congress. Others who deceive as part of their work include spies, lawyers, and anyone in the claims department of a health insurance provider. On the other hand, some people delude others (and themselves) because they simply can’t tell the difference between a lie and the truth. These people are called President Trump.
Every day, most of us are on the receiving end of a barrage of dishonest, disingenuous comments – sometimes from people we trust deeply. What can be done to stop this epidemic? To find out, simply buy my best-selling, award-winning advice book, The Lies About Truth.
But there is one thing you can bank on with 100% assurance. And that is that I care about you, dear reader, very deeply. I consider you my best friend. If you could just email me your bank information and social security number, I would like to make a large deposit into your checking account to show you how much your friendship means to me. And that’s the truth.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time
© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2020