Never give a sucker an even break or smarten up a chump. (W.C. Fields)
I like to categorize things. So, it should come as no surprise that I’ve categorized liars:
- Compulsive liars are those who are compelled to lie for particular reasons, likely known only to them. Needless to say, to the compulsive liar, all the reasons for which he lies are good reasons. Most of them have to do with getting ahead, getting something for nothing, saving his own ass, or all three. And all compulsive liars have consciences. They’re just really good at ignoring them or rationalizing their way around them.
- Pathological liars have no idea they’re lying. Their distortions and self-delusions are so complete, they lie as easily as they breathe and are incapable of distinguishing fact from fabrication. And pathological liars seem to be attracted to each other, sometimes congregating in specific geographic areas like Washington, DC. And pathological liars don’t have consciences. They can lie all day, sleep like babies at night, get up in the morning refreshed, and do it all over again.
Some people have a hard time determining which of the two is harder to detect. I don’t.
Here’s an example:
There’s a common expression that goes like this: “Everyone on death row is innocent.” It’s easy enough to understand why death-row inmates are compulsive liars. They’re lying in an effort to keep needles out of their arms or electricity out of their bodies. As Clint Eastwood says in The Outlaw Josie Wales, “Dyin’ ain’t much of a livin’, boy.”
Here’s another example:
There’s a common joke that goes like this: “How can you tell a politician’s lying? His lips are moving.” Politicians have no idea they’re lying. They believe every word they say is gospel. They have to. If they didn’t, they’d never get elected, let alone re-elected. That’s why every politician follows the advice of W.C. Fields. And it’s why there are three things you’ll never hear a politician say:
- We can’t afford that.
- You don’t deserve that.
You might hear many people say those things. But not one of them will be in public office. Ever.
Forewarned is forearmed?