Posts Tagged ‘silence’

About two mornings a week, a former FBI agent drops an e-mail into my in-box offering to teach me how to tell when someone is lying to me. For a large fee. Now, my father was an FBI agent for 30 years, and I am in favor of retired agents earning a good living. But do I really want to know when someone is lying?


Well, yes. Sometimes I do. The man who tells me he’s available and who has three girlfriends on the hook and wants to me make me number four. Yeah, I’d like to know what he’s up to. But honestly, a little research on Facebook (at no cost) answered THAT question.


Then as an attorney there are my clients. Who are convicted of various crimes by the time they get to me, the appellate attorney. But I do the same job for them, regardless of guilt or innocence. In fact, knowing positively they are guilty would be a real downer. So, no. I don’t care about learning how to decipher their perfidy (don’t you love English majors who write blogs?) by analyzing their handwriting. Besides, the law’s “truth” and everyone else’s “truth” are two different things. (Think Casey Anthony and OJ Simpson.) But we’ll leave that explanation for another blog.

I do wonder what the former FBI agent would teach me as the signs of being lied to. Not making eye contact? Shifting from one foot to another? Nervous tick? Elaborate story that does not stand up under my cross-examination? I’m not sure I need to pay a lot of money to learn that stuff. It’s kind of obvious.

And then there are the “nose growers.” You know. The Pinnochios whose noses grow when they lie. Well, not literally. But with some people if you swallow their story the first time knowing even as you listen it can’t be right, eventually they will fess up to the truth. You just have to wait long enough. I’ve known a number of these people. Patience pays off.

ImageI admit that being lied to makes me angry. It violates my sense of what is right in the world. I don’t encourage it, and I don’t like to encounter it. And I avoid engaging in it. But some social lies grease the wheels of life. Like not telling new parents their baby isn’t beautiful – yet. Or the poor man trapped by the dreaded question, “Do these pants make me look fat?” Or the dinner guest faced with “Don’t you want seconds?” when firsts were nearly impossible to hide under the mashed potatoes. Some social lies just have to be, no matter how we feel morally about the entire subject of lying.

So, even if the former FBI agent could make me an infallible human lie detector, I’m not sure I’d want that skill. And I’m glad noses don’t grow when we lie. Then, too, as Adrienne Rich said, “Lying is done with words, and also with silence.” And those, I think, are the most powerful lies of all.

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