Honesty vs. Faking It

honesty-v-fakingit-flashI came across an interesting — if not a bit confusing — podcast on the Freakonomics site: Stephen J. Dubner argues that between “Sea of Cheating and the valley of Lying, you’d come to the kingdom of Faking It.” A woman who keeps kosher, but loves to nibble on bacon when she’s out for brunch. A man who tells nosy colleagues about a fake desire to have children and a fictional membership in a local church. All for the sake of easing social situations.

Some would call these white lies. Others would call these out-right untruths. But I certainly wouldn’t call it “faking it.” Still, that quibble aside, Dubner writes:

Is all this faking a menace to society? Or do we all benefit from everyone else’s fakery? You’ll have to decide for yourself.

We all know it’s bad to lie, but we do it anyway. According to a 2008 study, the average person tells four lies each day-or nearly 100,000 in a lifetime. The most common lie is “I’m fine.” Other popular lies included “sorry I missed your call,” “our server was down,” “nice to see you,” and “I’ll call you back in a minute.” Also, apparently men lie more frequently.

So are these fibs “faking it” or lying? Does smoothing things over socially count as a Very Bad Thing?

To complicate things further, somewhere along the line, honesty became the antonym of politeness. Thinking of others’ feelings became a sign of being out of touch with your own-especially for young adults. To be honest means admitting how bad things are. If you are happy, perky or positive, you must be lying to yourself. Honesty has morphed “into the mockumentary tone of MSNBC and Comedy Central shows and others — as if anyone who claims to be doing good must be lying, and all sacred cows deserve to be torn down, disproven and laughed at,” Phil Fox Rose, of BustedHalo.com fame, recently told me.

This is a clear place where we need to define our terms: faking it vs. white lies vs. politeness vs. honesty. Thoughts?

Christine B. Whelan

Dr. Christine B. Whelan is an author, professor and speaker. She and her husband, Peter, and their dictator cats, Chairman Meow and Evita Purron, live in Pittsburgh. Her book "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women" is available in stores or at the Halo Store.