Dishonesty versus lying

I was struck by a quandary earlier while I washed dishes. I think a lot when I wash dishes. Washing dishes is a Zen activity of disconnection. My mind, my essence, disengages and all that remains is a lucid wakefulness untouched by ego or memory; a simple stream of reality gushes in, unrestrained and unblemished by my conscious willfulness.

I was washing dishes and I thought, when do we accuse someone of lying, and when do we accuse them of being dishonest?

Is there a difference?

Why yes, my conclusion is that there is a difference, a subtle, nuanced schism that those of us with deliberate patience and keen senses can discern as long as we value the blurry intellectual infarction.

Let’s assume you have a girlfriend.

Better yet, let’s assume you have conversations with her, at least periodically.

One day, she does something that draws your ire.

You accuse her of lying to you.

A lie revolves around one specific incident or chain of events. This is what makes it a lie. A lie is demarcated by a beginning and an end. A lie an be delineated by boundaries and as such, presents a focal point that allows you to direct your anger/hurt/frustration at a specific moment in space-time. When accusing her of lying to you, you essentially are putting her on the spot (literally) and it’s as if she is a defendant in the court of law. She must give her side of the story and do her best to refute your accusation, to demonstrate that she was not lying, usually by explaining the peripheral events in such a way that minimize the inconsistencies present in her words. A lie can be fought on its own ground.

But if you accuse her of being dishonest with you, the sense of betrayal digs deeper. Dishonesty is more hurtful and damaging. On the surface, accusing someone of being dishonest is merely saying that they are not telling you the “whole” truth. But there is so much more involved in the accusation of dishonesty when pointed at a loved or cherished acquaintance. Implicit in the stream of dishonesty is the subtle disregard for mutual respect and openness that marks close relationships. This is a transgression against the relationship as opposed to an action against you, singularly. Whereas the reductionist nature of the lie is an attack against a person, it does not attack the basis for the relationship in the same way a long-standing habit of dishonesty does.

When you lie, you tell someone “I am disrespecting you.”

When you are dishonest, you tell someone “I am disrespecting what we are together.”