Debbie Downer

But first: A few things I should have made clearer yesterday:

The pizza party is 6:30-9:30 p.m. on Aug. 22, a Monday, at Iggie’s, 818 N. Calvert Street.

It’s first-come, first serve. If you’re one of the first forty to buy a book via the link, you’re on the guest list.

If you’ve already pre-ordered a book or an e-book — through an independent bookseller or any online retailer, in any formate — e-mail me at laura AT

It’s really simple: Click on link. Buy book. Eat pizza! I chose the beer and wine today.

Meanwhile . . . the interview machine is up and running. I taped one yesterday, I am taping one today, I am doing one by phone tonight or tomorrow, meeting with a Baltimore Sun reporter Thursday. In yesterday’s interview, Sheilah Kast, always thoughtful, told me The Most Dangerous Thing was unsettling. To that, I can only say: I hope so. She also wondered if I took a negative view toward honesty, given that a character in the book, arguably its moral center, advises someone close to him that our culture has a “mania” for honesty that is not always productive.

I prize honesty. I’m a basically honest person. I say “basically” because I’m a big fan of the social lie. But I’ve lied to get out of trouble. I lied to get out of speeding ticket recently. (I claimed I was racing to the nearest restroom and the young state trooper was so embarrassed for me that he let me go with a warning.)

But a lot of people want to be rewarded for honesty and I don’t think it works that way. Just because you’re willing to tell someone about your transgressions doesn’t mean you can be forgiven. If you are forgiven, that’s all about the good nature of the person you’ve hurt, not about you. It doesn’t really wipe the slate clean. Confession is good for the confessor’s soul.

Sheilah asked me if it was punishment enough for people to go through life knowing that they have done something horrible. I think so, assuming the person isn’t a sociopath or doesn’t try to rationalize what was done. But what do you think? I’d really like to know. Honestly.


8 thoughts on “Debbie Downer

  1. I agree that honesty is overrated. Both social lies and secrets are essential to a loving, peaceful life. It’s a fine line and a tricky one: if you’re telling the lie to protect yourself instead of the other person, you probably ought to tell the truth. But parents and children, for example, are almost obligated to lie to each other about things at various points of their relationship. I WANT my children to lie to me about certain things, and wouldn’t dream of telling them the truth about other things.

    I once dated a man who claimed he never lied. His honesty was a sort of weapon; he has few friends, and those friendships aren’t deep. It was impossible to have an intimate conversation with him; it was just too scary. I suspect that he may actually be a sociopath.

  2. “But a lot of people want to be rewarded for honesty and I don’t think it works that way.”-I agree, it doesn’t. One is honest because it’s the right thing to do (most of the time). It is its own reward, if there is any reward to be had.

    “Just because you’re willing to tell someone about your transgressions doesn’t mean you can be forgiven…It doesn’t really wipe the slate clean. Confession is good for the confessor’s soul.”-Amen to that. Someone from a former relationship in a galaxy far, far away insisted that his confessions should have no impact and that my forgiveness could and should restore our relationship to what it had once been. That was not at all possible. He demanded forgiveness for his confession and never understood that there were consequences for his decisions and his actions; those consequences being a relationship destroyed. Trust and honesty are conjoined and intertwined; when one is damaged the other cannot stand.

  3. I believe in social lies as they’re necessary to keep peace and get along in society. I have, very seldom, but still lied to get out of trouble. Basically I believe in being honest because it’s usually the right thing to do, I don’t have a religion to fall back on so it helps me frame a moral code. When I was 12 I went through a phase of stealing books. My mother caught me. She didn’t make me return them as she knew I would punish myself much more harshly. I never stole anything again, was never tempted.

    I have never understood confessing and thinking that is enough to “get out of a sin.” It scares me because I live in a community where many people believe that, teach their children and put that value onto the community. Personally I believe in therapy, jail, whatever is needed to make a wrong right. And there is never one size fits all.

    I think people in the USA have to learn that confessing is only the beginning.

  4. Given the construct of your question, my answer would be — no. Having done something horrible and lying about it, I doubt a normal, non-sociopathic or non-rationalizing person would be able to carry on the perpectual cover-up. Eventually, they would either admit their deed to someone or slowly transform into a rationalizing person, lessening the severity of the horrible thing in their memory. Good people just can’t bury their consciences that way and karma, guilt or outside forces would conspire to end the falsehood.

    I think that lying is one of those genuinely human experiences that we all understand on a gut level. Human interactions are complicated. As much as we would like to be honest all of the time, we all know people who challenge our resolve. We have all been in situations that we felt demanded sensitivity or expediency and we have all strayed into the gray in order to make our lives seemingly easier. The experience is not without consequence — we have all felt the pang of guilt that follows, as well as the pain of betrayal when we have discovered someone else has lied to us.

  5. Every situation and type of dishonesty whether “little white lie”, “protective lie”, or “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” is, in and of itself, unique to the situation at hand. There is only one moral absolute here…never be dishonest with YOURSELF. Very few houses are devoid of mirrors…

  6. I suspect it’s impossible to lie to someone else without lying to ourselves. I’ve known people who have told unforgiveable lies w/o suffering apparent remorse or any real consequences. The lies were a manipulative way of sabotaging the relationship. Time helps us liars forget the enormity of the lie, and we can soon convince ourselves that whatever hurtful or destructive that stemmed from the lie doesn’t make us a bad person. We honestly believe everyone lies, and so we’re just like everyone else.

  7. Honesty without compassion is simply brutality. I’ve seen people use it exactly as described above, as a weapon and as armor, a way to justify their cruel actions and/or words. I also believe in the social lie as a necessity of human interaction but it does rely on most of society being able to determine the difference between lies that are mostly inconsequential and ones that are very consequential. Sadly society at large seems to have trouble with this these days…maybe we always have but our phenomenal access to so much information so quickly makes us more aware of our shortcomings in this arena.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>