“A Car Accident, a Head Cold, a Lie Before Breakfast…”

One of my favorite books of all time is J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey.

The reasons I love it are too numerous to recount. For today the lines below, describing Zooey, are the focus:

“I think it just remains to be said that any one of a hundred everyday menaces—a car accident, a head cold, a lie before breakfast—could have disfigured or coarsened his bounteous good looks in a day or a second.”

“Hhmmm…” you may be thinking, “I don’t get it. Why so special?”

What I love is the juxtaposition—the equal weight—given to a car accident and a lie before breakfast: the idea that our words have the potential to maim not only those around us—but us—violently.

Now some of you may be thinking,

“Really, Frances? Aren’t you being extreme? What about the fibs, the white lies, the small untruths that grease the wheels of daily life?”

I don’t know. I am not claiming to have any or all of the answers – or even stating I will never lie again.

Rather, my hope is that this post serves as a reminder of the impact our words have—not only on others but on ourselves.

To me, the poet Hafiz, said it best,

We speak
Becomes the house we live in
Who will want to sleep in your bed
If the roof leaks
right above

So the next time you (or I…) feel yourself about to veer away from the truth, reconsider.

It would be terrible to cause an accident.


For examples of how lies show up—and suggestions for how to handle them—take a look at “Beware Boardroom Bullying”.