I was married to a liar for 25 years. At a very personal level, I have first-hand knowledge of the devastation lying creates in people's lives. I know that liars can be clever, charming, smug, and thoroughly convincing.
Scott Peck, in People Of The Lie, which The Wall Street Journal called a ground breaking book, described lying as a human evil. Liars are: "Utterly dedicated to preserving their self-image of perfection...They are acutely sensitive to social norms and what others might think of them....While they seem to lack any motivation to be good, they intensely desire to appear good. Their 'goodness' is all on a level of pretense. It is, in effect, a lie," according to Peck.
It is a book that deserves to be revisited at this time in our new world order where lying is an everyday occurrence. Such is the shock that lying has become the new truth, media outlets had to scramble for appropriate language in their reporting. The next challenge was to find a way to approach the liars and their lies at the same time keeping their incredulity in check.
Liars all have very similar traits. First of all they have an agenda. There is a reason for their lying. In my case it was to hide a very big secret. Or it can be delusions of grandeur and power. It may simply be to play a game to find out how far they can push the other side of truth. There is always a motivating factor.
Contrary to popular lore, really good liars do not shift their gaze or get fidgety in the midst of a lie.
They build their base carefully. Try the crowd on for size. If they get away with one lie, then they branch out. One lie begets another and another, a bit like Pinocchio's nose.
Denial is not just a river in Egypt, it is another cornerstone of the liar. Deny. One particularly favourite line I heard when my marriage broke up was " I have no knowledge of that." A clever way to dodge honesty. Curiously enough I have since heard many people use that line in television interviews.
Constantly shift the landscape is another tactic. Never let the spotlight shine too brightly on one area. Change the discussion focus, metaphorically go out for a smoke if conversations start going in the wrong direction.
Contrary to popular lore, really good liars do not shift their gaze or get fidgety in the midst of a lie. Science has proven that these liars build separate brain wave patterns for the lying side of their life. Hence their ability to lie so believably. In that sense it is a truth, their truth or their alternative fact.
A liar has a very astute understanding of the personal target or people in their audience. Tell them what they want to hear is an effective marketing tool and is also in the liar's arsenal. If a particular lie gets a very positive response and the crowd roars with approval, they quickly up the ante. Often these lies get more outlandish with each roar of the crowd and the liar lets the adulation wash over them.
All the while the liar portrays sincerity. The 'awe shucks' approach is another tactic. I am just like you they will say. The person is drawn into this 'you and me against the world' line. Here's someone that really understands and cares about me the crowd hopes. It's a dance, an act with a sinister goal of power and control.
A good liar is a good manipulator. If they need to shift the focus they do. They readily identify when the time is right to throw a curve into the works. If one topic is creating too much heat, throw out something truly outlandish to catch the top headline and shift the focus.
What do you lose along with truth when there is a liar in your in life? Trust, one of the basic tenets of any relationship. Once discovered, liars call into question everything they say and do. Remember the story of Peter and The Wolf. Eventually the town's people stopped listening.
Ultimately the truth will out and we must contribute to that truth at every opportunity.
What else do we lose with a liar in our life? The liar leaves a trail of disequilibrium which ultimately results in chaos. It is that unease, dis-ease that allows the liar to keep lying. Petulant, child-like, always upending the next topic. Sucking all the oxygen out of the air. Liars are constantly chasing their own fame and glory. It is their ultimate destination. A destination achieved at any cost where we hear the telephones are beautiful-elegant even.
The world is in uncharted territory today. The media noted that we have always had a plethora of tinpot despots. As we've seen, the odd Rasputin sidekick is thrown in for good measure. It was easier to rail against regimes on another shore.
Giving attention to the liar fulfills their evil objective. Ultimately the truth will out and we must contribute to that truth at every opportunity.
Meanwhile, in these uncertain times, we can take some comfort listening to Willie, "Living in the Promised Land."
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