What's more toxic than a lie?

Answer: a half-lie.

A good half-lie will get you to focus on the benefits of true part, tricking you into accepting but ignoring the costs of the false part.

What's more believable than a regular half-lie?

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Answer: a half-lie that is tied up and neatly packaged inside of a single word.

When a half-lie is hidden inside of a single word, then every time you speak, think, or listen to that word according to its generally agreed upon meaning (including its denotation and connotation), then you've been conned into believing the half-lie (and incurring the costs of believing it) because it's tied together with the half-truth of that word that you hope will give you benefits.

It's very sneaky. Let's look at an example.

Persistence

If you think, speak, or listen to the word "persistence," accepting its generally agreed upon meaning, you are a believer in a half-lie and a half-truth (and your actions will be guided by that belief). You will reap some benefits from the half-truth part, while incurring costs (sometimes these will be immense) from the half-lie part.

Distinguishing the wheat and the chaff 

Persistence means to continue an action or set of actions for the purpose of maintaining a desired condition or for accomplishing some desired result or set of results. It also means that this behavior is always a valuable thing to do.

The first part of the meaning explicates a type of behavior that can be valuable in many life circumstances. This is the half-truth part.

The second part of the meaning is a normative assertion that such behavior is always a valuable thing to do. This is the half-lie part.

Redefining to remove the chaff

You can redefine a word like persistence for yourself, as I have. For me, if I use the word persistence I leave the first part of the meaning the same. That's fine.

 

The second part I replace with, this behavior can be either valuable or to be avoided according to the circumstances. First, I'll evaluate all the benefits, costs, possibilitiesrisks, both for my Now (the present and/or near term) and for my Next (further away and/or the future), both for my Oneself and for my Others. Then if my assessment is that continuing to persist would lead to the most overall desired results, then that's the valuable thing for me to do. If, instead my assessment is that quitting would lead to the most overall desired results, then that's the thing for me to do.

Of course, stopping to think and act this way involves a willingness to be 100% responsible for your life, to accept and recognize that your #1 job is to take care of yourself, and to choose courage to act in ways that others may disapprove of.

It also means that if you speak the word "persistence" to others, it would probably be helpful to let them know that you mean something rather different from what they mean when speaking or listening to that word.

My mother was smart, but...

She accepted the full-blown, socially approved idea of persistence. It served her (and those she cared about) in many ways. But it also created and sustained an immense cost for her (and even for others). 

Within two days of marrying my father, she suspected she had made a mistake (I learned this more than 40 years later). But she believed in PERSISTENCE. All the way. Consequently, she kept trying, she kept tolerating, she kept suffering, staying married to and tied to a man she didn't love and didn't respect for over 40 years. 

And even then, in July of 1984 (she got married in 1943), the only reason she finally left him was out of an end-of-the-road desperation to maintain her own sanity and survival.

Big and small and in-between

Of course, this is a rather large example of how toxic the half-lying word "persistence" can be. But, at least with my mother, after she finally left my father, her life was reborn. Many are driven to their death by believing in persistence. 

A small example

Because I have redefined persistence, I do something rather often that gives me only benefits yet can create problems for others.

Reading books

Specifically, it's a policy I have about reading books. I read a lot, often up to an hour each day. I'm often discovering new books. Others are recommending books to me. Sometimes, but rarely, I know in advance that I will certainly like a book and read it to the end. More often, it's risky. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. Should I start this book or not? It's fairly simple for me. I start reading (often I get the free sample). If I'm not enjoying the book and getting value after ten minutes, I quit and I'm proud of myself for quitting. On occasion, I've even quit in the middle of a book. And, fairly often I'll skim over sections of a book that don't occur as juicy for me.

In contrast, I've found that most others don't do this or have trouble with doing this. They are still caught up in the half-lie of persistence. This also inhibits them from "testing out a book" like I do because they believe that if they start then they have to finish. What bullshit!

Check out another half-lie: lazy

Being lazy means choosing to relax for a time instead of taking some action (during that time) to do something that likely to be valuable for your future. It also means this is a behavior to be consistently avoided.

The first part of the meaning explicates a type of behavior that is helpful to avoid many life circumstances. This is the half-truth part.

The second part of the meaning is a normative assertion that such behavior is always something to avoid. This is the half-lie part.

My redefinition

I have redefined lazy for myself in a way similar to how I redefined persistence. So when I am lazy, it's the best thing to do. And when I am not lazy, it's the best thing to do.

Hundreds and hundreds of words that tell half-lies

We are infected from within. They live and breed and cooperate, reinforcing each other inside our mind. Any word that contains some embedded normative assertion as part of its definition is guilty until proven innocent of being a half-lie.

Here is an incomplete list of such words (become a half-truth sleuth!)

  • Abandon

  • Accommodating

  • Accountable

  • Abortion

  • Addiction

  • Advice

  • Agreeable

  • Alcoholic

  • Altruistic

  • Altruism

  • Ambitious

  • Appropriate

  • Arrogant

  • Average

  • Avoid

  • Bad

  • Bad karma

  • Behave

  • Behind on things

  • Best (do your)

  • Better

  • Betray

  • Betrayal

  • Birth

  • Bitch

  • Blame

  • Boring

  • Bully

  • Careful

  • Caring

  • Catch up, get caught up

  • Childish

  • Comfortable

  • Commitment

  • Common good

  • Competition

  • Complain

  • Complainer

  • Confidence

  • Considerate

  • Controlling

  • Convenient

  • Conviction

  • Cooperative

  • Courage

  • Courageous

  • Coward

  • Cowardice

  • Cowardly

  • Crazy

  • Criminal

  • Dark side

  • Death

  • Decisive

  • Dependent

  • Deserving

  • Difficult

  • Diligent

  • Disagreeable

  • Discipline

  • Discrimination

  • Dishonest

  • Disloyal

  • Disloyalty

  • Disrespectful

  • Divorce

  • Doctor

  • Don't worry

  • Doubting

  • Drinker

  • Drug addict

  • Dump (as in "dump someone")

  • Duty

  • Efficiency

  • Effort

  • Ego

  • Egoistic

  • Energy (taking up my energy)

  • Enough

  • Entitled

  • Equality

  • Excellence

  • Excuse (making)

  • Expectation

  • Exploit

  • Extremism

  • Fact

  • Fail

  • Failure

  • Fair

  • Fake

  • Fake news

  • Family

  • Fault

  • Fear

  • Fearful

  • Flaw

  • Foolish

  • Forgive

  • Freedom

  • Generous

  • Give up

  • Giving 100%

  • Giving back

  • Good

  • Got to

  • Greedy

  • Hard

  • Hard-working

  • Hate

  • Have a right

  • Have to

  • Healer

  • Helper

  • Helpful

  • Hope

  • Hopeful

  • Hopeless

  • Honest

  • Honor

  • Honorable

  • Hospital

  • Hubris

  • Humble

  • Hypocrite

  • Ideal

  • Illegal

  • Immature

  • Impatient

  • Impolite

  • Important

  • Improper

  • Improve

  • Improvement

  • Inappropriate

  • Inconsiderate

  • Indecisive

  • Independent

  • Insensitive

  • Insult

  • Insulting

  • Integrity

  • Intrusive

  • Irresponsible

  • Jerk

  • Just

  • Justice

  • Justifiable

  • Justified

  • Killer

  • Late (like "show up late")

  • Lazy

  • Legal

  • Lie

  • Liar

  • Listener

  • Listening

  • Loser

  • Love

  • Loving

  • Loyal

  • Loyalty

  • Lying

  • Manipulate

  • Marriage

  • Materialistic

  • Mature

  • Misbehave

  • Mistake

  • Mistrust

  • Mistrusting

  • More (where "how much more" is not clearly specified)

  • Must

  • Must not

  • Narcissistic

  • Need

  • Negative

  • Never give up (never quit)

  • Normal

  • Not enough money

  • Not enough time

  • Not good enough

  • Not smart enough

  • Not beautiful enough

  • Not ready

  • Obligation

  • Offensive

  • Opinionated

  • Optimistic

  • Parole

  • Parolee

  • Patient

  • Patriotic

  • Persist

  • Persistence

  • Pessimistic

  • Polite

  • Politics

  • Positive

  • Practical

  • Prejudiced

  • Pride

  • Procrastination

  • Professional

  • Promise

  • Proper 

  • Prove

  • Punctual

  • Put up with

  • Putting off

  • Quit

  • Quitter

  • Racism

  • Racist

  • Ready

  • Reasonable

  • Reckless

  • Recycling

  • Rejected

  • Rejection

  • Respectful

  • Responsible

  • Reward

  • Ridiculous

  • Right

  • Safe

  • Selfish

  • Selfishness

  • Self-discipline

  • Self-sabotage

  • Self-sufficient

  • Sensitive

  • Serious

  • Sexism

  • Sexist

  • Shameless

  • Share (as in "share your toys")

  • Shortcoming

  • Should 

  • Should not

  • Silly

  • Sin

  • Smart

  • Smoker

  • Smoking

  • Strange

  • Struggle

  • Stubborn

  • Stupid

  • Succeed

  • Success

  • Suicide

  • Supposed to

  • Taker

  • Tight-fisted

  • Tolerating

  • Too (as in too hot, too angry, too fat)

  • Too little

  • Too much

  • Tough

  • Traitor

  • True

  • Truth

  • Trust

  • Trusting

  • Uncaring

  • Uncomfortable

  • Uncooperative 

  • Unconditional love

  • Undeserving

  • Unfair

  • Unimportant

  • Unjust

  • Unjustifiable

  • Unjustified

  • Unloving

  • Unreasonable

  • Unselfish

  • Unselfishness

  • Unworthy

  • Use somebody

  • Victim

  • Violence

  • Virtue

  • Waiting

  • Want

  • Waste

  • Wasting time

  • Weird

  • Why me?

  • Willpower

  • Winner

  • Worthy

  • Work

  • Wrong

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