He misremembered. She misspoke.

Despite the countless euphemisms for intentionally stating what one knows is not true, a lie is a lie—plain and simple.

Recently, a woman uttered such a bold-faced lie to my face that I couldn’t stop myself from laughing in response. Her words and actions were just so absurd:

My husband and I had our dog in the car with us when we ended up at the grocery store. I went in first to shop while he stayed with our pup, and then we switched. Taking my turn in the car, I looked up from my phone (of course, I was on my phone!) to see a woman in a blue PT Cruiser preparing to pull into the space next to me. From my perspective in the front passenger seat, she appeared to be turning too sharply.

I was right!

Lo and behold, she hit our right passenger bumper. The contact felt like a forceful person had pushed against the car. She backed up a tiny bit and proceeded to park—as if nothing had happened!

As I got out of my car, she said, “I didn’t do nothing.” Technically, she wasn’t lying because didn’t do nothing is a double negative! (Didn't do nothing means did something.)

“You hit my car,” I replied. “No matter what you say, I saw you do it. I felt the car move.”

I looked at the bumper, called my husband, and quickly took some photos of her scarred vehicle and ours with my phone. Surprisingly, the woman did not drive off; instead, she made her way to the store, passing my husband has he headed to our car.

“That’s her!” I called to him.

“Did you just run into my car?” my husband asked.

“I didn’t do nothing,” she repeated to him.

Sizing up the situation, he and I both concluded that the scuff would easily buff off. Her front passenger bumper, however, looked as if Edward Scissorhands had been sharpening his tools on it. Clearly, that wasn’t the first time the woman didn’t do nothing.

After my husband returned to the store to pay for our groceries, she came out emptyhanded and proceeded directly to her vehicle. I looked her way and laughed at the absurdity. Scowling as if I had done something terrible to her, she got in her car and fled the scene. Thankfully, she avoided contact with people, puppies, shopping carts and other autos.

Telling a lie used to be a big deal. Today, liars are encouraged to deny, deflect and/or deceive, often by repeating the same lie over and over until people (including the source of the lie) believe that the falsehood is the truth.

Why is that?

1. Minimized sense of wrongdoing

Not so long ago or far away, children learned that a lie was the greatest offense. If they misbehaved but confessed truthfully, they would pay a smaller price than if they disobeyed and also lied about it.

So what are boys and girls now learning?

Childrearing experts suggest that responsible adults should strive to understand why the lying occurred rather than tackle the lie in itself from a moral standpoint. Some professionals refer to lying as a weak problem-solving skill.

All in all, adults have become desensitized to lying. Many see it as an acceptable and sometimes necessary means to an end.  Likewise, children are learning from observing and doing that it’s no big deal.

2. Gullibility

People hear and believe what they want to be true, especially when the liar is an admired celebrity, inspirational leader, a loved one or valued associate. Acknowledging the truth (even if plain-as-day evidence tells the real story) would force tough changes in thoughts, actions or both.

More often than not, however, liars get away with nothing:

  • The truth always comes out.
  • Liars lose their credibility, particularly by continuing to lie, as one leads to another.
  • Complete trust is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reestablish.

Is lying ever acceptable or admirable?

Well, yes, but all good reasons that currently come to my mind are quite unpleasant, so I won’t name them.

My parting words to the woman who didn’t do nothing: Stop lying and driving. If you continue to operate that PT Cruiser like a bumper car, you’d better not lie to the police when they’re called to the scene—the next time!

There’s always a next time—perhaps the best reason not to lie in the first place.

My best to you,

Sallie Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady