I’m Not Gonna Lie

As the obsessive language freak I happen to be, I’m always sensitive to new expressions creeping into the vernacular. Most frequently, those expressions are meaningless; that is, they don’t actually express anything of substance. But they’re valuable for what they signal. And they signal four things about the people who use them. Those people:

  1. Likely don’t know what they’re talking about
  2. Don’t want you to know they don’t know what they’re talking about
  3. Need to fill up some time while they try to figure out what they’re talking about
  4. Want you to believe they’re sincere and honest in what they’re talking about.

The most recent such expression is this: I’m not gonna lie. Oh, boy.

My Education

In 1985, I took my first full-time, post-college corporate job. It was at Ætna. (Yes. That’s how it was written back then when ligatures denoted something other than gizmos for strangling people on true crime shows.) I was 32 at the time.

When I started at Ætna, there was a legendary character there who was just about to retire. His name was John Callahan. (He had me at Irish.) He was a legend because of his wit and his unerring insight. Three examples:

  • He once told me the Ætna mascot should be a blindfolded porcupine.
  • I asked him how Ætna could make a seemingly unbroken streak of boneheaded moves and still stay in business. He said, “Mark, ya can’t hardly f&#@ up compound interest.”
  • After a project had tanked for lack of clear direction and had to be re-done, John said, “There’s never time to do it right. But there’s always time to do it over.” Amen.

But the most important, universally true, and abidingly influential thing John ever said to me was this: “Never believe anything until it’s officially denied.” And that brings us back to I’m not gonna lie.

My Skepticism

Whenever someone says, “I’m not gonna lie,” my Spidey Sense starts tingling like Vladimir Putin’s Megalomania Meter. And the same sequence of questions runs through my head:

  • Do you mean now, later, or every time?
  • Why do you need to tell me you’re not gonna lie?
  • Should I be suspicious?
  • Have you lied to me before?
  • Will you lie to me again?
  • How do you decide when you’re not gonna lie?
  • When do you decide you’re not gonna lie?
  • Why?
  • If I have to do this much thinking about it, how much do you have to do?
  • Is it worth it?

I can’t decide if I’m old-fashioned or just lazy. But I’m not gonna lie: It seems easier to tell the truth.

On the other hand, what do I know? I’m just an obsessive language freak.


Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brien
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.

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  1. Oh, that Nietzsche quote is priceless, Mark.
    That is how I feel about trust. it is not the FU in itself that goats me; it is how much it influences how I will relate to not only that person but to other people I haven’t even met yet. Every time it is pouring acid into the social machinery where there should have been oil.

    It takes a lot of memory to remember whom you have told what if what you told them was not the truth. But I doubt that it is only laziness that keeps you closer to the truth. Or me. As we see it.

    • I love your acid/oil imagery, Charlotte.

      I don’t believe we have lying in us. That’s a matter of two things: (1) Integrity — we’re not comfortable lowering ourselves to dishonesty, particularly because it’s self-serving. I don’t feel important enough to lie to anyone. (2) Logic — it doesn’t make any rational sense to lie because the truth is a straighter line and requires no maintenance.

      I think we’ve just discovered another reason for our friendship and another reason to celebrate that friendship. ❤️