Today Show Features Author Who Excuses Lying

Go ahead and lie, ladies – and when you get caught, blame society and of course, your mother.

On Wednesday's Today Show, Meredith Vieira interviewed Susan Shapiro Barash, author of Little White Lies, Deep Dark Secrets, a book that appears to rationalize the lies women tell and excuse women for such behavior. 

Barash stated “it's partly the culture really almost encouraging women to make a secret of something they aren't supposed to do” and also blamed mothers for teaching women to lie in order to avoid hurting anyone's feelings. 

Barash even said “sometimes it's just expedient to lie.”  Now convenience is supposed to excuse not telling the truth? 

While Vieira acknowledged that lies “can be very dangerous,” the women failed to point out that lying is inherently wrong and should not be tolerated.

The third participant in the discussion, relationship therapist Argie Allen, only said that lying and keeping secrets “affects the rest of your relationships” and “they can have a toll on you physically, emotionally and spiritually” in addition to you “moving away from your own truth.” 

Instead of exploring the deeper issue of why society compels women to lie, Barash gave a rundown of the different types of lies women tell and the rationale behind each:

    Innocent lies – These lies include women not telling a friend how she really looks in a dress or not telling a husband their true feelings about a gift.  Barash also labeled these lies compassionate.  That is, women tell these lies in order to avoid hurting others' feelings.   

    Betterment lies – Examples of these lies are a women lying about their marital happiness or family finances.  The lies are intended to “improve the situation” and are “deliberate.” 

    Acceptable lies – Such lies are used to explain bad behavior.  Barash used a shoplifting mother as an example.  The mother shoplifts small things when shopping with her children.  If she were to get caught, she'd say “It's such a hectic day and I have my children with me.”  Basically the woman would say the stolen items were simply an oversight and the “hectic day” excuse would be a rational explanation to most people.     

While the women spoke at length about society's role in causing women to lie, nothing was said about the effect lying has on society.  Lying can enable some people to make a lucrative living.  In the past two weeks two different memoirs proved to be entirely fictitious. One involved a woman who claimed to have followed her foster brothers into gang life and the other was a Holocaust survivor who claimed to be raised by a pack of wolves.  There's no telling how many copies these books would have sold had the women not been caught in web of their own lies. 

As for the rest of society, it just leads them to the question:  “Who can I trust?”

Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter