“A lie has many variations, the truth none.”
— African Proverbs
Children are taught from a young age to always tell the truth. But do we accurately teach our children what is truth and what is a lie? Do we ourselves even know the difference between the two?
When I was in high school math class, the teacher taught us that despite the name of a then recently released movie, there is no such thing as a true lie. It was either the truth, or a lie. The two can’t coexist.
However, of the three main types of lies, two of them are rooted in truth, with no spoken falsehood. It is imperative to understand and accept that despite the truthful content, they’re still lies.
What are the 3 types of lies?
- Lie of Commission
- Lie of Omission
- Lie of Influence/Character Lie
What is a Lie of Commission?
This is the one that is easiest to understand. It is a flat out false statement. E.g. When the thief denies stealing. When the child who broke curfew claims they came home when they were supposed to.
What is a Lie of Omission?
This is what I call the “True Lie”. Where one says a 100% factual statement, but purposely leaves out a key piece of information in an attempt to mislead the listener. E.g. A used-car salesman states that the car in question has only run for 7500 miles, making it almost new. He deliberately fails to mention that almost all of those miles were driven with massively heavy loads, which has compromised the car’s suspensions and affected the car’s stability. Despite the truthfulness of the statement (and despite the fact that the legal system wouldn’t consider the statement perjury), it is manipulative and a falsehood.
What is a Lie of Influence / Character Lie?
This is when someone will tell you something completely unrelated to the truth to cover up a lie. E.g. A longtime employee is suspected of stealing from work. When asked about it they respond: “Me? I’ve been working here for TWENTY YEARS!!” Notice, they never actually responded to the question about whether or not they stole. All they did was try to divert the question by mentioning their longevity at the job.
It can often be confusing to a child (and even adults) when presented with Lies of Omission and Character Lies. It can lead to confusion and questioning of judgment. Why? Because the truth is being used to manipulate and deceive.
By teaching our children about the three different types of lies, we can assist them on both ends of the spectrum. We can raise children who are more truthful, since they have a clearer definition as to what constitutes a lie.
We will also create more astute listeners. Individuals who will be quicker to notice when being lied to via any of the various methods. The movie title is accurate, True Lies can and do exist. Something can be 100% true and yet still be a lie.