Mark My Words – Stark differences between lies and mistakes

What is the difference between making a mistake and telling a downright lie? In our society, it can be hard to tell them apart. But really, should it be? Especially when there is no reason to believe otherwise?

According to, the definitions are as follows:

Mistake: Noun — an error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgment caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, insufficient knowledge, etc.

Mistake: Verb — to understand, interpret, or evaluate wrongly; misunderstand; misinterpret

Lie: Noun — false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood

Lie: Verb — to speak falsely or utter untruth knowingly, as with intent to deceive

As human beings, we all make mistakes. And I will venture to guess that we have all lied at some point in our lives, some more than others. Finding the difference between a mistake and a lie can be somewhat difficult for some, however. And there is a clear difference.

No one likes making mistakes, but they happen. And certainly, no one likes being on the other end of a mistake, either. Back in my days of working in an office and having a cubicle, I had a sign that said, “I don’t make mistakes. I make unavoidable errors.” All kidding aside, mistakes are a part of life. We are told to “learn” from them and become better people because of them. If we are not allowed to learn from our mistakes, how can we become better at what we are doing?

By the same token, no one likes to be lied to, either. It doesn’t matter if the truth was kept from us accidentally or to “protect” us, the reasons do not matter. You want and expect people to be honest with you, regardless of the situation. I mean, honesty is the best policy, after all, right?

So why is seeing the difference between a mistake an all-out lie so difficult for some to decipher? I would like to say that there is an easy answer for that, but sadly, I can’t. It seems that there is such a fine, fine line between the two that some people can’t separate them from each other, especially if their mind is already made up or they feel that they were fooled.

I actually think it is so much easier for people to call out others as a liar for making mistakes because we seem to want to believe the worst in people rather than accepting that people aren’t perfect and will, on occasion, make mistakes. Instead of helping people correct a mistake or see that an error was made, we want to quickly point a finger and accuse, place blame and punish. It doesn’t make sense, really. Especially when the concept or whatever the situation is brand new to you.

And then of course, you just have people who, for whatever reason, like to throw others under the proverbial bus, because they are the ones who made the mistake to begin with, but yet, want to place blame elsewhere, so why not blame someone else? Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention that there are people who lie and are great at it. To them, it is second nature just to lie their way out of things, even if they don’t realize that they are doing it. Heck, maybe they aren’t telling a lie, either, but just simply made a mistake in judgment. If so, fix it!

I strongly believe that honesty IS the best policy. If I make a mistake, I own up to it. I will explain my reasoning and do my best to correct the wrong. That is the way I was raised, and that is the way I live my life. I make mistakes. Lots of them, in fact. I make mistakes in all facets of my life. But I would like to think that I do indeed learn from them and beyond that, I accept that others make mistakes as well.

As the definitions state, there are stark differences between the two, so don’t always go for the easy way out and assume the worst in people. Mistakes might not really be “unavoidable errors,” but they certainly don’t mean people are out to deceive, either.

By Mark McGlothlen

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