White Lies

Living an open and honest life, being yourself, and hiding nothing is an admirable way to live, if a little impractical sometimes.

Lies are bad OBVIOUSLY, but if you are going to lie for the love of God do it well. Half-arsed lying helps no-one. 

If Grandad has taught me anything in life, it’s how to lie effectively.  As usual, he taught me this through the medium of being a cautionary tale, rather than actually being much good at it.

Good Lies

Sometimes we have to lie to people for good reasons.  We call these white lies.  Good examples of these would be things like when a friend, who’s recently put on weight, asks if you can tell that they have recently put on weight, or when a relative or friend has a really ugly baby.

A less good example of a white lie would be when your parent with anger-management problems asks if you are writing a blog about their appalling behaviour. 

…Or, if you are asked to go to any event that you won’t enjoy more than staying at home and watching Star Wars in your pants.

Ok, so not all white lies are “good” but I think we can agree they’re fairly innocuous and will likely become a necessity at some point.  So let’s look at how to lie in the most plausible way.

The first rule in effective lying is that the lie must sound like the truth.  Your Dad is a TERRIBLE liar, and by that I don’t mean he lies often.  I mean he’s REALLY bad at it.  I mean awful, just awful. 

The second rule of effective lying is to check that there is no immediate evidence that you are lying.

Memory Issues

The biggest problem for those of us with working memory issues is, and always will be, remembering the lie – which is another good reason for keeping lies to a minimum.

The best way to prevent this happening is not to lie at all; the second best way is to use something that actually happened, but at a different point in time.

The final rule for effective lying is not to do it too often.  You can miss one wedding by going to Rome, but if you go to Rome every time there’s a wedding, people will start to suspect you hate weddings, or that you are people-trafficking in Italy, either way you don’t want that.

Frequency matters.  Your dog might eat your homework once in a lifetime, but if it’s every week you must be dipping it in gravy first.  The only time that frequency can be ignored is when you are both in on the lie.

Gateway Lies

One warning about white lies, they are gateway lies.  Use them often and they could lead to bigger lies, or the worst kind of lies, the ones you tell yourself. 

Never lie to move blame to someone else, or to obtain or achieve what should not be yours – If that happens, you’ve gone too far and need to tell the truth.  There’s a phrase “the truth will out”.  It’s true, it will, and it’ll take you out with it.

Madness Lies

Never lie to yourself.  It might seem like a victimless crime but it’s not.  It will stunt you emotionally, psychologically, and as a human being and that way madness lies. 

 

How To Respond To Gifts

If you want to really upset Auntie Kate or I, give us a gift that we can’t give a literal equal response to.  We are incredibly awkward around gifts anyway, but we are especially messed up around unequal giving. 

Why?  Well this is quite obviously another Grandad El Paso story.  Normal people give gifts because they want to see you happy.  Grandad gives gifts because he wants to OWN your happiness, which is a very different thing. 

If Grandad has given you a gift, he wants to see the kind of gratitude usually reserved for being rescued from the jaws of a Kraken.  Also, Grandad will remind you of the happiness he has provided and will call in favours against it for years after, like Don Corleone.

Unfortunately, from this we have developed a Pavlovian response that gifts “bring pain” or at the very least require aggressively reciprocal gifts to negate the power of the original gift.  These are of course completely INAPPROPRIATE responses to gifts from NORMAL people. 

So, here comes the “do as I say, not as I do” advice.  If a normal person gives you something amazing they probably just want to make you happy.  So, simply show them that they have made you happy and say thank you, rather than panic and splutter that you can’t afford anything of equal value for them. 

If someone (Grandad) gives you a gift because they want something in return, then that is their problem, they should not have declared it to be a gift.  In any barter system worth it’s salt, the choice of what you are bartering away has to be known up front in the agreement, otherwise it is less bartering, more extortion.

That is not to say you shouldn’t reciprocate gifts, but you should do so because you want to make that person happy not because you owe them an equal amount of happiness.  Gifts should be a voluntary and benevolent act, not a straight-up swap, and certainly not a bargaining chip.

Most people are NOT Grandad and when they do something nice for you they are simply trying to spread a bit of joy in the world.  Help them spread that joy by experiencing the joy and then pay it forward when and to whomever you can.   

Disclaimer – Grandad has never really asked us to kill anyone, neither have we ever offered. 

Be Yourself

I realise that saying “be yourself” after spending most of your childhood training you not to be must seem incongruous, but in my defence, mostly it was to keep you from delinquency. 

I stand by the example above though.  When meeting new people especially, it is important to hold the crazy in for as long as you can manage.  It is also important to be yourself though, if for no other reason than that holding in the crazy can look a bit like this:-

Seriously though, it is important to be yourself and not let other people’s preconceptions of who you should be define you.  What makes this world a wonderful and interesting place is the variety of unique people you can interact with.  Be yourself and add to that community.

John Lennon said it best I think with:-

This is 100% true.  I’ve pretended to be someone else before (to fit in, not for any kind of identity fraud).  Pretending not to be me got me the wrong friends; people I neither liked nor wanted to be around. 

Actually, that’s not 100% true.  That time in my life did get me one truly brilliant friend, who has stuck with me even though the crazy is now 100% out of the bag. Though in all honesty that was probably more luck than judgement.

When To Let The Crazy Out

I enjoy being myself almost all the time now.  Letting the old ADHD out for a daily run is great.  People who know me are used to my inability to shut up, or sit still ever, and either they’re too polite to say or they don’t mind.  I choose to believe they don’t mind.

It’s not always great, sometimes I forget to “hold the crazy in” for the requisite time period and say things like this when meeting my new boss:-

He backed away slowly, smiling and nodding.  That’s a good sign right?

It doesn’t always go so badly.  Last week I decided to excitedly use my rudimentary “knowledge” (i.e. 2am Googling) of quantum physics to explain to a complete stranger at the tea point why I thought a watched kettle might take longer to boil.  It turned into a lovely chat and ended with them reading my blog and leaving a really kind comment.

So in summary, sometimes it’s good to hold the crazy in, sometimes it’s fine to let it out, always be yourself, and if you ever find out how to balance this effectively, be sure to let me know won’t you?

Live and Learn

One important thing I think you should know about the human race, we mess up.  We do this regularly, sometimes moderately, and very often spectacularly, but we ALL do it.

To Err is Human

Whilst the above phrase has fallen out of favour lately, the phrase “who did the risk assessment on this?” is very much on the up.  This, and the continuing popularity of “who can I sue for this?” have resulted in a tendency to try to apportion blame in any given situation. 

There is another lesser-known saying that I think applies quite aptly here:

Mistakes are part of the natural world, and need acceptance for what they are.  Attempting to eradicate all errors is like trying to wipe out flies – Firstly, it can’t be done, secondly, if it could, sure you might enjoy a drink outside, free from the winged-pesterers for a week or two, but shortly after the whole eco-system would collapse and die in a horrible chain-reaction. 

Errors have their place in the world, they are educators.  They happen so that we can learn from them. 

My Bad

As you know I myself am very risk-averse, so my mistakes tend to be limited to small embarrassments.  For example, the other day I came out of a shop and I tried to get back into the wrong car, inadvertently causing the startled elderly couple in the Mitsubishi Estate to think carjacking had reached rural Staffordshire.

Some people (i.e. Daddy) would say I should have checked whether the car was ours BEFORE trying to scramble in.  Of course, I SHOULD have, but I DIDN’T.  I will next time though because that mistake has taught me a valuable lesson; look before you leap.

Other people, who are not as risk-averse as me, may unfortunately make more life-changing mistakes.  Perhaps, they weren’t lucky enough to be parented by the weird tag-team I had growing up, where one made me learn my fire-exits in every building I entered, and the other dangled me over a 300-foot-drop to show me that heights were “nothing to be afraid of”.

Some people might jump or fall off things that they shouldn’t have climbed.  Some might not take out insurance and then lose all their stuff.  Some people work in jobs where one mistake can cost someone else their health, or even their life.  Whatever their mistake was, it was still a mistake, an error, not a malicious act.

I’m not saying don’t sue, or that people shouldn’t pay due care and attention to what they’re doing, or that there aren’t irresponsible, dangerous, people out there (Grandad).  I’m just saying that everyone makes mistakes. 

Perhaps for those irresponsible people (for example the kind of person that would dangle a 12-year-old over a castle’s retaining wall) we could introduce some kind of three strikes rule?  On their third “mistake” we’re allowed to get properly angry at them.

Forgive Your Own Mistakes

The most important thing I’m trying to say is, if you make a mistake, be kind to yourself.  Don’t waste time beating yourself up for mistakes you have made but couldn’t help making.  

No matter how much you think about something that has already happened, nothing can make it un-happen, and if you didn’t deliberately do it, how could you have deliberately not done it?  

To err is human, and entirely out of your control.  Don’t give yourself such a hard time, because they’ll always be someone out there more than willing to do that for you.