Recently, "Karen" raised an interesting question during a coaching session:
She talked about a male coworker who lies about pretty much everything, but especially about his wife. According to Karen, most people believe him - but she has repeatedly caught him in lies, and she doesn't understand why it affects her as negatively as it does.
She said, "My boyfriend says to just let it go, that the truth is always somewhere in the middle. And besides, it's none of my business. But (the man she works with) says some awful things about her, and I feel like him saying those things around me makes it my business. I know I should just let it go right past me. Why do I let him get to me?"
Her very question troubles me. Why wouldn't she let his behavior get to her? That's the healthy reaction.
You know, I think that the only stance that's on the same level as a liar is the attitude that we can never know an absolute truth - which is the sad cultural commentary embodied by the sentiment, "The truth lies somewhere in the middle."
That's another nugget of the intellectual laziness known as "conventional wisdom". It's an easy dismissal, a way of discarding the truths that we don't want to acknowledge, confront, or can't be bothered with; moreover, it gives liars - and their enablers - an easy out.
I had this same conversation with a friend a while back. She was impatient with herself, questioning her own annoyance with a cyber-acquaintance - one who regularly presents herself as something she's not.
"Why on earth do I let things like this upset me?" she asked.
That's an easy one to answer: she should be upset, as should Karen, and they should be glad that they're bothered by liars. That's a good thing.
It seems to be some kind of a cultural trend, that we are to accept the fibs, fudgings, and manipulations of the world with good humor - like it's the price we have to pay for living in a jaded world. Some of us never agreed to that contract, and we don't abide by it. We get angry at the inability to take people at their word.
We wish we could devote our mental energies elsewhere, to endeavors more enlightening than constantly trying to discern the difference between reality and a liar's self-serving image-spinning.
Personally, I don't know which group I have more disrespect for: there are the liars, and their determination that they will define the realm within which they, and those around them, will exist.
Then, there are those who excuse
the liar. The ones who are savvy, and enlightened, and who are perfectly comfortable with the idea that truth is an elusive destination.
They, when you consider it, are liars as well: they say it doesn't matter, that it's not worth getting upset about, that deception is simply the way of the world.
Then they pop up with the conventional idea, "The truth lies somewhere in the middle."
That's true only if you have a liar on both ends.
See you next month.
Jenna Brooks is the award-winning author of the critically acclaimed October Snow series. She welcomes your questions and comments through her website, Jenna Brooks Online.