Lying is Contagious

Written by BG Howard

August 16, 2023

It has always amazed me, when considering the essentials of life, that ranking right up there alongside such necessities as basics like food, water, and oxygen…is truth. Most everyone either knows or knows of someone who seems to have an irreparable disposition that compels them to “stretch the truth” beyond recognition. Conversations with these individuals, one soon realizes, assumes something of an identity of its own. As if the task of listening isn’t difficult enough, such discussions are further complicated by a quest to sort through all the insignificant rhetoric designed to canvas the facts.

According to Pulitzer Prize winning author of “Tangled Webs: How False Statements are Undermining America: From Martha Stewart to Bernie Madoff,” James B. Stewart, this country is enduring a lying epidemic. As noted on the website Character Counts.org, “Part of the problem is that people can’t bring themselves to admit that they’ve done something wrong. And it seems this sort of lying isn’t exclusive to billionaire entrepreneurs and athletes.”

Television celebrity, Martha Stewart had worked for years building an impressive media empire. She became a famed premier homemaker, but was convicted in 2004 of lying to the government about an uncharacteristically opportunistic stock sale as well as obstruction of justice. Ms. Stewart even noted to an interviewer that prosecutors had spoken to the fact they felt lying amongst society has reached epidemic proportions. One stated, “Every day I come into work expecting to be lied to…”

No matter the socioeconomic classification, consequences of the pandemic have encompassed all walks of life. Everyone from business owners to those “called” to the pulpit have been adversely affected as the plague of lying appears to have infected the entire world.

There have been countless incidents involving prominent members of the clergy ranging from televangelists such as Pastor Ted Haggard who was entangled in lies several years ago about his involvement in a homosexual relationship. Another popular pastor, Mark Burns, actually walked out on a CNN interview in September of last year when caught in a lie about his Biography. There was a huge sex scandal involving more than 1000 accusers in November of 2015 wherein 271 clergy members of the Boston Archdiocese faced possible charges as they had, you guessed it; lied.

During last year’s Summer Olympics in Brazil, American swimmer, Ryan Lochte, and three friends/teammates had apparently gotten intoxicated after completing their competitions. They’d gone into a Brazilian gas station bathroom and simply trashed the place. Even amidst the evidence produced by authorities, including video surveillance, Lochte denied having taken part in the incident and promptly returned to the United States. His teammates were, by the way, held by Brazilian authorities who mandated James Feigen pay a $10,000 fine before being allowed to leave the country. Lochte, a wealthy and accomplished thirty-two year old, 12 time Olympic medalist, alongside his counterparts concocted a story about having been held at gunpoint. The Today Show’s Matt Lauer interviewed Lochte who, after getting caught in a barrage of lies, simply stated that he had “Over exaggerated.”

Granted, the “art” of lying has been cultivated for thousands of years since first introduced by Adam in the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately, the concept of “cloaking truth” has been around for so long that today’s society appears to have gotten desensitized to it. Lies are largely more accepted and, in some cases, even expected by the greater number of our modern social order. Some have raised the act to the realm of being a near art form.

Famed writer and spokesman, Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Shameful is the fact that people have gotten to the point characteristics such as truth, loyalty and trust have become a thing of the past. Long gone are the days when major business agreements could be solidified with a handshake. This day and age, at the point a person is shaking hands to confirm an agreement one has to be watchful he’s not using the other to stab you in the back.

There is, no doubt, a costly consequence to lying in that it invariably destroys valued associations. The habit deteriorates trust which is the foundation for every relationship existing among man. German and Greek scholar, philosopher, poet, cultural critic, and philologist Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

Many people today are so egotistical that inflated self assessments have them believing their own lies. It’s reasoned that what they do isn’t necessarily telling an “untruth” but interprets as a matter of simply embellishing the truth until it means something altogether different. I could be wrong but it’s just something to consider.

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