“I don’t like lies… Not even lies of omission. Hard truths can be dealt with, triumphed over, but lies will destroy your soul.”
– Bran Cornick, Moon Called
Mercy Thompson series, by Patricia Briggs
The first book in the Mercy Thompson series wastes no time introducing the audience to the local supernatural powers that be, including a vampire mistress on one hand and, on the other, the alpha of all werewolves on the continent. Bran is the latter. He has lived for at least a thousand years, easy, and he has the experience and strength of will to go with it. That is certainly ample opportunity to see the truth of what he says in action.
There have been, and continue to be, countless times where people have tried to live their lives completely independent of uncomfortable truths. To that end, they build a web of lies told to others, and often to themselves as well. The details of what happens next may vary, but it never works out well.
Most obviously, if the truth behind the lie is ever discovered, it can ruin you. To that end, in a mad effort to keep the truth buried under, greater and greater lies, and greater crimes, are piled on top of what might have been a small mistake at first, but which has become so much worse now. One can look to the Biblical story of King David and Bathsheba, or the mythical fantasy story of King Rhitta in Lloyd Alexander’s short story, The Sword, or the fictitious story of Teddy Conrad in Nashville, or the real-life debacle of Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal, or countless other examples, to show how devastating a single lie can become.
Everything we do in life adds to the foundation of what we build on top of it, what we do next. Truth is eternal, impossible to break, but a lie cracks that foundation, and it can all come crashing down without any warning whatsoever.
On the other hand, if it works, if whatever objective is achieved by use of a lie, then, in the eyes of the world, it is a success. But there remains something… wrong. Something lost. Some drop of poison added to the soul, and, without some thorough cleansing with the truth, that single drop can fester and spread like a cancer. Just as good, kind, honest deeds make our souls more beautiful, so do our sins, our crimes, and our lies twist and disfigure them, and there are some truly ugly souls out there. Such dishonest souls can have all the success they want, but without the lasting happiness which lies rob them of, what good does it really do them?
Mind you, I do make some exceptions, but even those come with qualifiers. To say to an SS officer, “No, I am not hiding any Jews,” may be a noble, life-saving lie, but it also puts one in immediate danger, which is why it is so noble and heroic. So, it’s a “good” lie, for why it’s being told, but still completely dangerous to the liar.
And while all war is deception, and one must fight wars as effectively as possible, even those lies which are told for all the best reasons can twist us into something we weren’t before.
Even relatively small, benign lies (which, we usually of our lies in such a way) can prove disastrous in some way. I will always remember how one older gentleman taught us, when I was a boy, about honesty being the best policy. He recounted how he joined the navy, and they asked the new recruits if they could swim. It is obvious why that would be important, and why one should answer that question with complete honesty. Thus, while those who said no were taken off to learn how to swim, the rest were tested in how well they swam, and it soon became obvious who had lied about it. They, too, were taken to learn, and the officer overseeing them called after them, with serene pleasure, “That’ll teach you to tell the truth.” We all laughed at that. 🙂
In short, honesty is the best policy, for a multitude of reasons.
Most of all, because a lie will outright destroy you, always, but a truth, however uncomfortable, only does so when you go against it.