What’s a Biggest Lie?

If you know what a “biggest lie” is, please let me know as I’ve just spent more than an hour trying to figure out what it is.

It has been both interesting and frustrating trying to figure it out.

Of course I ended up on Wikipedia reading the extensive list of types of lie which has been compiled there.

Below is the Wiki definition of a “big lie”, and it has a link to its own page which I’ve left in the excerpt:

A big lie which attempts to trick the victim into believing something major which will likely be contradicted by some information the victim already possesses, or by their common sense. When the lie is of sufficient magnitude it may succeed, due to the victim’s reluctance to believe that an untruth on such a grand scale would indeed be concocted.

One of the most interesting aspects of my figuring out expedition has been that it drew my attention to how many posts in my WordPress reader published recently by the blogs I follow have the word “truth” or “lies” in their title or are discussing the truth or liars.

And it’s not because they’re all participating in the writing challenge posed by Sarah Elizabeth Moore: Writing Prompt #3

I did briefly wonder if it had anything to do with transiting Jupiter having moved into Sagittarius – a zodiac sign known for being a seeker of truth.

But this focus on truth and lies isn’t new for humans, we’ve always been obsessed with veracity and mendacity.

The Yellow Press by L. M. Glackens, 1910
The note in the lower left reads: “The time is at hand when these journalistic scoundrels have got to stop or get out, and I am ready now to do my share to that end. They are absolutely without souls. If decent people would refuse to look at such newspapers the whole thing would right itself at once. The journalism of New York City has been dragged to the lowest depths of degradation. The grossest railleries and libels, instead of honest statements and fair discussion, have gone unchecked.”– From Mayor Gaynor’s letter published in the New York Evening Post.

One of the thoughts which came to mind while contemplating the words – The biggest lie I’ve ever told – is how it assumes that lying is normal, in fact it’s such an ordinary occurrence that the only way to make it worth writing about is to GO BIG.

How come people never ask you questions like – What’s the biggest truth you’ve ever told?

Maybe they do and I wasn’t listening when they did, or I wasn’t there when it happened – if you’re not there when it happens, did it happen?

If you search goodreads for quotes with “lie” in them, you get too many results to count. The top result is:

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

― Mark Twain

Which is a wonderful quote by a great author, but it’s a load of cobblers… when looked at from my perspective of growing up with prolific liars, and having to become one myself to live in that environment.

If you tell the truth while living in the land of liars, there is an awful lot which you have to remember.

Such as – Don’t tell the truth! Really, really, don’t do it! Especially not when someone asks you to tell them the truth. If they say “I want the truth even if it hurts” then they definitely don’t want the truth.

Forget the truth, no one wants to hear the truth.

And if you don’t want to be repeatedly scolded, lectured, screamed at, bitched about and lied about, called a liar, excommunicated, branded with the mark of the beast, shut up and support the lies of others as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Liars are very concerned about the truth. They tend to talk about it far more often than people who aren’t liars.

They spend a lot of words impressing upon others how valuable the truth is to them. They do seem to treasure it, and guard that treasure fiercely by attacking all the liars who surround them, pointing out all the lies they hear others speak, and ramming their truths down everyone’s throats.

If you put “mendacity” into the goodreads search bar you only get a few results, one of which is this:

“But we love the Old Travelers. We love to hear them prate and drivel and lie. We can tell them the moment we see them. They always throw out a few feelers; they never cast themselves adrift till they have sounded every individual and know that he has not traveled.

Then they open their throttle valves, and how they do brag, and sneer, and swell, and soar, and blaspheme the sacred name of Truth!

Their central idea, their grand aim, is to subjugate you, keep you down, make you feel insignificant and humble in the blaze of their cosmopolitan glory!

They will not let you know anything. They sneer at your most inoffensive suggestions; they laugh unfeelingly at your treasured dreams of foreign lands; they brand the statements of your traveled aunts and uncles as the stupidest absurdities; they deride your most trusted authors and demolish the fair images they have set up for your willing worship with the pitiless ferocity of the fanatic iconoclast!

But still I love the Old Travelers. I love them for their witless platitudes, for their supernatural ability to bore, for their delightful asinine vanity, for their luxuriant fertility of imagination, for their startling, their brilliant, their overwhelming mendacity!”

― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad

Now that is absolutely spot on.

It describes the people I grew up with and their tactics for propagating lies as truth, and suppressing the truth by calling it lies, perfectly.

When I was reading that quote, something someone said in a post I read last night came to mind.

That someone was doing something they enjoy and love to do on their blog, which their readers enjoy and love too.

But they were feeling hesitant about doing it because another blogger whom they admire and respect, had disdainfully dismissed and downgraded the activity as not proper writing for a WordPress blogger – what a lot of pretentious tosh!

They didn’t name the blogger who had made them feel sneered at for engaging in an activity which they love, but I bet I can guess who it was.

The sort of people who are Old Travelers (aka. narcissists) tend to have a signature style.

They invariably claim to be the smartest person in the room, they’re seeking to be the only intelligent life on the planet. They are bullish in their need to make their version of the truth the only one allowed, and their method of doing that is by making everyone else feel stupid for believing in a different truth.

They’re very adept at selling their version of the truth and reality to others because they do it with an air of being the one and only authority on all matters.

This attitude makes others feel once again like they’re children in the presence of an all-knowing mother/father who must be obeyed or else they might lose their love.

Always believe what they tell you even if you know they’re lying, never challenge them, accept their words as laws and rules, as that is what good children do… you do want to be a good child, don’t you.

“Did I not risk incurring the severest of penalties if I insisted on breaking that taboo? But my fear also helped me to understand a lot of things, one of them being that Freud betrayed his own insights for that very reason.

Should I follow in his footsteps and revoke the insights I had gained on the frequency and the consequences of cruelty to children, so as to not be attacked and rejected?

Could I really have seen something that so many people who unconditionally adulated Freud had not seen: his self-deception?

I can remember that whenever I started negotiating with myself trying to find a compromise, or asking myself whether I should not perhaps divulge only part of the truth, physical symptoms were invariably the response. I had digestive problems, I could not sleep, and I suffered from bouts of depression. Once I had realized that there were no more compromises for me, those symptoms disappeared.”

― Alice Miller, The Body Never Lies: The Lingering Effects of Hurtful Parenting

I love the above excerpt.

Alice Miller wasn’t the only psychologist to challenge the big authoritarian father figure whose truth must not be questioned.

It was not an easy choice to make, even though she was authority in her own right, as to go against Freud was like a child going against their parent, and being judged unfavourably by society for doing so.

I love how she highlights just how difficult it is to tell the truth.

How we talk ourselves out of it.

How we convince ourselves to stay within the confines of something we’ve come to view as not being true for the sake of self-preservation. To not be cast out from the group. To get a pat on the head rather than a slap across the face.

“Once the adult self has decided to find out the whole truth about itself, the body feels understood, respected, and protected.”

― Alice Miller, The Body Never Lies: The Lingering Effects of Cruel Parenting

The biggest truth I’ve ever told was when I allowed myself to see the biggest lie I’d ever told myself.

What was the biggest lie – that nobody wanted to hear the truth.

The truth had to be forgotten, had to be hidden, buried within, denied, silenced in favour of lies, fabrications of happy childhood, great parents, perfect life, lucky me. A big smile covering it all up, I’m fine, saul goodman.

Why was it a lie – Because there was one person who wanted to hear the truth.

But first I had to see that person… as a person.


  1. The purpose of the writing challenge is not to assume anything (I.e.: that lying is normal and we all do it); rather, the purpose is to get us thinking about something that can spur us to write. This is why it’s a Weekly Writing Prompt, and not a Weekly Assumption.

    I love the time and thought you put into your post. This is exactly what a Writing Prompt is intended for. 🙂

    And… excellent conclusion!

    Be blessed! Keep writing!


    • Thank you, Sarah 🙂

      You don’t have to worry, I do understand how writing prompts work. My writing/thinking style can be a bit confusing, my apologies if you thought I was taking a pop at your prompt or you.

      Actually a Weekly Assumption is a brilliant idea as a prompt! It reminds me of Fandango’s Provocative Questions weekly challenge which is always great fun, really gets the thinking juices flowing.

      Liked by 2 people

      • You should totally claim that and run with it! A Weekly Assumption prompt! I’d participate!


        And no, I didn’t take offense—I knew you weren’t dissing me or the prompt; you were responding to it. You really dove into it—and I love that! I try to always look at a prompt from a different angle and respond to it more than a face value dialogue, so I really enjoyed reading your thought process with this one.

        And it got me thinking about the question as you reverse it… What’s the biggest (or greatest) truth I’ve ever told? That’s a GOOD question! If you don’t mind, I’d love to quote you and borrow the question for next week’s prompt.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. What a great post Ursula, strangely enough l have a story from my Father about lying which l find absolutely astonishing considering he was one of the best and yet he always bested he was telling the truth even when the lie was staring into his face! I am became so confused by own parents lying and my Sisters than l am beginning to wonder if my real family adopted me out at birth and no one saw it!

    My parents told so many lies so often that they saw them as truth, which is even more troublesom. However the title of the post … What’s a Biggest Lie? Is the answer that the biggest lie is the one you tell to yourself and then believe it to be true?


    • Thank you, Rory 🙂

      My mother was like that, she saw herself as a saint who could never tell a lie. She would regularly make statements like – I don’t have a manipulative bone in my body – or – I couldn’t tell a lie to save my own skin. Those statements were often the intro to a manipulative manoeuvre or lie, but of course since she thought she was the only honest person in existence, she was blind to what she was doing.

      I do think that the biggest lies are the ones we tell ourselves about ourselves and believe to be true, go out of our way to prove to be true, because the knock-on effects are like a snowball rolling down a mountain which keeps on rolling, getting bigger and bigger, gaining momentum. The lies we tell ourselves about ourselves often are “awful truths” which we’ve been told repeatedly by others, particularly as a child by our parents. We can’t allow ourselves to see that as a lie especially when we’re a child, we feel compelled to protect our parents, so we have to make it a truth even if it means sabotaging ourselves.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Very very true Ursula.

        My Father started to believe his lies, my Mother too hers not his. My Sister 100% convinced she is always telling the truth. As like the rolling motion, the more you tell, the more you have to tell.

        But you have to be healthy to continually lie as in mentally healthy so as to keep track and abreast of them all. Towards the end, my Father, not healthy, not so capable saw many of his lies unfolding, he simply wasn’t able to keep on top of them all and forgot the plot to many.

        Even now, my Mother who has blatantly lied recently, decided to throw the usual tricks into play ‘l’m 79 this year’, l am getting old and forgetful, l am very ill you know, l have a lot of other things on my mind Rory, l ‘ll think you’ll find that your Sister is to blame for that .. and the diatribe continues on and on.

        All l ask from anyone is just tell me the truth no matter how much it may pain me. My parents lied to their children, they lied to each other, they lied to themselves, they lied to their friends and family, but ultimately they lied to themselves and made these overbearing rods that their shoulders simply couldn’t continue to take the pressure of.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Ursula – I love your posts – always so thought-provoking, but I am going to admit – you are so much more “well-read” than I am. You include fascinating quotes from sources I have never heard of.

    Please keep coming up with these magnificent posts – they are superb.


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