Is lying ever embraceable? If so, how did we arrive here?

by Jill Modell Modell-Dion

Once upon a time —like in a fairytale is the go-to line I often use when addressing my middle-grade students. More often than not, it’s a guarantee to lose their interest immediately. Believe me when I say they’re a tough audience.

Maybe I’m annoying when I complain about the world and its present state or when I open a conversation with, “When I was a kid.” I scan the room and can see their faces cringe as I am about to recall tales of the past. The question I should be asking at that exact moment is, “Do you guys really want to hear my story.”

But unexpectedly, they find it enlightening. Some of my anecdotes occurring at their exact age, over 55 years ago, are considered amusing. If I had to guess why they’re not bored with my storytelling, perhaps it’s for one reason—I speak about reality. My experience with teaching students I’ve uncovered ……THE TRUTH HAS VALUE WHEN IT COMES TO KIDS. 

Perhaps they are starving to hear that that their authority figures were colorful and exciting once. They’re satisfied after peppering me with questions on the details of my narrative. Even if I wasn’t the editor of my college paper, an Olympic gold medal swimmer in high school, or received a perfect score on my SATs, there are a few things about me worthy of a classroom of kid’s attention. However, my most significant appeal is the fact that I was their age 55 years ago.

I enjoy sharing as I have an unbelievable memory. My brain's hard drive has banked so much information I can go back and retrieve from the numerous files about my life. I can even describe an event in detail, like what I wore that day. I don’t have to lie because I can draw from plenty of material. The mistake grand liars make is they never consider the pieces of their life’s journal worthy of sharing. They're too lazy to explore what’s real and instead create a fantasy. 

Just because a person likes to embellish doesn’t mean they make falsehoods. The art of embellishment is like a garnish for the truth. It enhances the presentation, making it enjoyable while not distorting the facts. But let's say you serve your favorite marinara sauce and pass it off as homemade, even though you used a jar of Ragu. Can the meal still be considered a delicious homecooked meal? Of course, it can, but if it’s not a meal made entirely from scratch, as you strongly claim, it’s false. However, we’ve all done this, and it’s not the kind of lie that would shatter a person's confidence in the perpetrator.  

So when does exaggerating cross over to actual lying? 

Are there nuances to lying now that make it okay, acceptable, even fashionable? 

Do we seriously have to ask this?

I put lying into three categories. The first is finding pleasure in shaking up the truth but with no malice to deceive others. Let's call it a fib —garnishing the details. The second kind is to deceive intentionally, an action used to achieve a desired outcome despite the harmful effect the mistruth can cause. And lastly, the ultimate tier of deception —the trifecta of lying, performed by the most accomplished compulsive mistruth teller. And I think we all know a few of them.

The best way to shine a light on someone who is pathological is one who lies habitually, even when it isn’t necessary, like what they ate for breakfast. Yes! Imagine the audacity in spinning; they had French toast rather than the poppyseed bagel they consumed.

How do I write a story on lies without thinking of the giant elephant in the room or honestly in the world? While I won’t say his name, I will refer to my elephant as Georgie Porgie. Like the character in this old nursery rhyme, a man’s status above the people, indulgent, weak, fearful, and fully flawed, the elephant person I allude to is all of that and more. After the real Georgie Porgie’s fall from grace, I discovered the actual lies he concocted. 

Was I losing my mind? 

Who does this? And more importantly, who sanctions this after there’s enough suspicion to reveal these things never happened? If ever there was anyone whose pants were on fire, it was him. Are Georgie Porgie’s lies okay if his cohorts look the other way? And for those who ignore bad behavior, why wouldn’t you expect students to lie repeatedly without consequences?

Students may value the truth, but don’t be fooled; they lie, too. But if Georgie Porgie had stood before a class of students, I strongly feel kids wouldn’t have bought his lies. They would ask many questions only to feel the insincerity in his voice and body language. Kids can be sneaky, naive, and tricky, but unlike adults, they come without an agenda. They would see him for who he is —a fraud. 

If only his actual crime were making the girls cry.

Do you want the professionals who teach our children to reinforce that lying has consequences? I guess your answer is, “Yes!” If we’ve arrived at a place that doesn’t teach youngsters to embrace honesty, everyone better take notice. 

Whether you’re a person of worship or not, as a holiday wish, I pray that we start doing better. Stand up for the truth and scold those who don’t. Reject those who confuse what is real and what is not, and don’t forget your words last forever. 

And should we do with the elephant? My solution is to pray for Georgie Porgie that he will run away when the boys come out to play!

Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie,

Kissed the girls and made them cry,

When the boys came out to play,

Georgie Porgie ran away.


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  • Donna Moriarity on

    Love this.

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