Why does our common vernacular favour willful deception over minor error?
You mix something up. You get dates wrong, or confuse one fact with another. You discover it’s inaccurate. You say “Oops, I lied.” You didn’t lie. You were wrong. You made a mistake. It’s often a completely harmless mistake, but you would still rather say “I lied” than “I was wrong.”
We do all lie frequently, ever since Ricky Gervais invented Heaven. We lie to ourselves because, to use a phrase I absolutely fucking hate but will subject you do out of my own spite and malice for this despicable human race, “it’s hardwired into our brains” to take shortcuts and assume that our senses are objective reality. We lie without speaking when we shake our heads at, or outright ignore, the panhandler asking us if we can spare any change. We lie about how we’re feeling. We lie about how much we care or how interested we are in other people’s lives. We lie about our own feelings towards other people, whether this be by omission or by saying intentionally misleading things.
But more often than we lie, we are wrong. Within what’s “hardwired into our brains” there is more that we are just outright wrong about. It’s ignorance, but not willful ignorance. We get facts wrong in conversations. We get mixed up with how to do things that are part of our jobs. When we discover what we said or did was factually incorrect, we should be comfortable to say “Oops, I was wrong.” Otherwise, we’re lying by saying we’re lying, and our existence becomes a paradox that disappears into thin air.
This can only stem from some embedded belief in our cultural core that it’s better to lie than to be wrong. Machiavelli’s prince couldn’t take credit for the ends if he didn’t intentionally lie throughout the means. Being wrong risks being discredited; lying risks losing trust; trust is easier to regain than credit, or so we must subconsciously believe.
By criticizing this misuse of language, I might bring upon responses that it doesn’t matter, because when words are widely misused they effective change in meaning in an ever evolving language. But this is an important difference to preserve. If we equate lying with being wrong, then to err is immoral; to deceive is divine. But mistakes are where serendipity come from. Mistakes bring about discoveries. Mistakes are how we prove ourselves – amidst making several of them, coming out of it relatively unscathed is impressive and a practical necessity in everyday society, and especially in Timelords traveling beyond the human imagination in a police box. Would you talk about examples of getting out of lying in a job interview? No, you wouldn’t, if you wanted to get a job that wasn’t selling snake oil. You want examples of fixing mistakes, and you should own the ones you make if you want to own the solutions as well.
I don’t want to you stop lying. That’s unfair. I want you to stop lying about lying, and I want you to stop misusing language in a way that erases the value of honesty and humility to maintain an inflated pride.