Believing lies

A line during a reading by John Dufresne from his latest book No Regrets, Coyote jumped out at me. Not just because it was part of a well-crafted reading, but because it seemed to speak truth that goes far beyond the story in which he wrote the line.

“Bay says {a} close-up {magic trick} works this way: I tell you I’m going to lie to you, and then I lie to you and you believe it because you want to believe.”

How often do we believe what someone tells us just because we want to believe? Whether from a sleight-of-hand artist like Bay in Dufresne’s book. Or from a leader who prompts us to go war. Or from someone close to us who keeps us caught in a toxic relationship. We believe what we want to believe. When we need to believe. Because that justifies our actions. Or inaction, as the case may be.

John Mellencamp touches on this topic in his 2004 song Walk Tall.

“The simple minded
And the uniformed
Can be easily led astray
And those that cannot connect the dots
Hey look the other way
People believe what they want to believe
When it makes no sense at all.”

The lyrics to his song imply that believing because we want to believe is due to being ignorant or lacking common sense. I love these lyrics and this song. But I don’t think these are the sole reasons behind believing words that are belied by actions. Or why people are led astray.

Sometimes you cannot see what is in front of you because you cannot or do not want to see it. Acknowledging the lie will invalidate who you are, what you have experienced, how you have lived your life. To face a lie that you accepted (and through this acceptance, you ended up lying to yourself) may mean that years ago you went down the wrong path. And everything in your life since then is built on this lie. Your life may crumble if you squarely face the lie. Just like removing a card from the bottom of the stack. The whole house of cards comes tumbling down.

Or the lies in words or action may contradict how you view the world. You cannot even compute the lie because it is not in the realm of how you experience the world. Someone who approaches the world as a hostile place interacts with others very differently than someone who approaches the world as a friendly place. If the actions of the first are viewed through the lens of the second, there could be potentially serious implications. The second someone is believing a lie, interpreting the other’s actions in terms of how they themselves would react and why they would react that way. They are believing a lie perhaps literally told to them. Perhaps only converted to a lie through their own interpretative filter of the words told to them.

Also, it is human nature to see only what you are looking for. If you aren’t looking for the gorilla on the basketball court, but only to count how many times the ball is passed, you will likely not see the gorilla. If you aren’t looking for deception or unfaithfulness or bad behavior from another person, you may not see it.

Bay’s frank assessment of our inclination to believe, even when we are blatantly told we will be lied to, begs us to stop and ponder. To reassess and reevaluate our worldview and our need for that view of the world. Not that our worldview may wrong or need changing. Just that it may help us to realize the existence of our worldview and to understand our reasons behind needing to believe what we believe.

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