Most everybody, at one time or another, has lied. Tell the truth now: that includes you and me. In fact, some people, sad to say, lie almost all the time. Psychologists call these people compulsive or psychopathic liars. They tell lies even when they don’t have to. Even the youngest of children will lie, especially if they think by doing it they won’t get punished for something. When children first learn how lying works, they lack the moral understanding of when to refrain from doing it.
While maybe everybody lies at some point, few understand how destructive it can be, why we do it, and how to stop it.
So let’s answer the question, “Why do people lie?” Let’s start with a quick self-evaluation:
* How many lies do you think you have told this last week?
* Who did you tell the lies to?
* Why did you tell the lies?
* How do you feel about the lies you told now?
Because lying can have such destructive and harmful consequences to both the liar and the one being lied to, I’ve written a series of blogs on lying.
There are different kinds of lies, as well as different degrees of lying. It seems so many people I talk to have a problem with lying whether it’s their own, or someone else’s. Let’s begin by defining what lying is:
Lying is saying something with the intent of creating a false belief or impression. It’s an attempt to get someone to believe something that is not true.
Sometimes a lie might seem unintentional, or it may have been told to save someone else’s feelings. For example, someone may say to another, That sure is a pretty dress!, when the person knows it’s ugly. We all have the capacity to lie.
We deceive other people because we think it serves our purposes in some way.
Why does the world lie? This is a question with many answers.
- FEAR – It was Tad Williams who said, “We tell lies when we are afraid… afraid of what we don’t know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us. But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger.”People can be so afraid of what might happen if they told the truth. Maybe they have done something wrong and are afraid of the consequences of their actions, so they lie to cover up what they did. As often said about political scandals: It’s not the crime that gets you in trouble, nearly as much as the cover-up.
- MANIPULATION – Lies are typically motivated by a desire to get other people to either do something or not do something, or to make a decision in the favor of the person doing the lying. Someone might lie to get something they desire such as sex, money, status, power, love, etc. Lori said: “I’m young, but I realized quickly lustful people know how to get what they want, even if it means lying to you about how they feel.” Probably the word love is used in more lies than any other. How often a guy will say to a girl (or vice versa), I love you,simply to get the other person emotionally stirred-up, so they can be more easily manipulated.
- PRIDE – Many times, a person will lie because of pride. They use it for nothing more than a tool to create a favorable image of themselves. This leads to exaggeration, which is a form of lying. Often people will create fascinating, yet completely false, stories to improve their image.
Bottom line: We deceive other people because we think it serves our purposes in some way. And it’s easy!
Lying may seem simple and harmless at first, but just like any addiction, you’ll soon find yourself trapped and entangled more than you could have ever imagined.
The big problem with lying is that it becomes an addiction. When you get away with a lie it often drives you to continue your deceptions, and in the process, we ruin relationships, hurt others, lose our integrity, and lose our peace. Truth becomes a feared enemy of the liar. It’s a sick and tragic cycle that doesn’t ever have a happy ending.
Wouldn’t you like to avoid this cycle? You can make the choice right now to live an honest life. I promise it is the better road…even if you are afraid. Here’s why:
When you’re honest, you can feel at peace.
Lying is extremely stressful. It causes you to be constantly looking over your shoulder and wondering who might be finding you out. You’re always running through the lies you’ve told in your head, trying to keep track of what you’ve told to which person, and what’s the next lie you need to tell. When you’re honest, you don’t have those worries, or the negative consequences of your lies.
Roiselyn commented: “I can say that not lying is a very relaxing way of life.” The fact that you don’t have to worry about remembering old lies or getting in trouble later on for lying puts a lot more relief in your life. Even when it’s hard, telling the truth always has the better outcome than a bunch of lies.
Honesty Builds Trust and Healthy Relationships
People are constantly looking to see who they can trust and who they can’t. People are actually much more perceptive and aware of who tells the truth and who doesn’t. Over time, honesty shows itself as a trait that is beautiful and deeply respected. As you begin to live lie-free, you will begin to see people will trust and respect you more and more.
If you resist the temptation to lie, you increase your capacity to build lasting relationships of trust. This is true in all our relationships whether it’s dating, family, friends, or at work. Macey put it so well: “It’s always best to be honest. It makes any and every relationship strong and healthy.
You feel good about yourself and don’t carry the burden of guilt.
If you are honest, it means you do what you say you’re going to do, and when you say something, people know you mean what you say, and that feels good. Someone commented about the value of being honest: “I used to lie a lot. I would lie only because it was easier than explaining the truth. And I have finally grown to realize that it’s easier to [be honest]. Being honest and open has actually gotten me further than lying. My parents trust me, and I feel good about myself. And when you feel good about yourself then you know that everything is okay. This person has come to realize that when we tell the truth and live it, we become emotionally and spiritually stronger every day.”
I want to offer up a challenge to all of us. Would you be willing to commit to a life of honesty and integrity? If you’re up for this life-changing challenge, please write me a comment below, and tell a friend about your commitment too.
For more information and help, click the link below to download this FREE eBook created by TheHopeLine®.
We all do it — sometimes to be kind, sometimes to get something we want (or avoid something we don’t want), and sometimes just because we can. When do you lie?
In a recent Opinion essay, one writer contends that relationships last only if we occasionally lie. Is she right?
In “Good Lovers Lie,” Clancy Martin writes:
Valentine’s Day is not a celebration of truth telling. God forbid! Relationships last only if we don’t always say exactly what we’re thinking. We have to disguise our feelings, to feint, to smile sometimes when we want to shout. In short, we have to lie.
We all tell lies, and tell them shockingly often: Research shows that on average in an ordinary conversation, people lie two to three times every 10 minutes. (It makes you want to be completely silent for a day or two just to throw off the statistics — but what about lies by omission?) And we lie particularly often when it comes to love, because we care more about love than we care about most things, and because love causes us more fear than most things do, and caring and fearing are two of the most common reasons for lying.
It starts when we’re kids. Why did you lie then? Because you didn’t want to get in trouble; because you cared what the other kids thought; because you were afraid to lose the love of your mom. “It is the law of obedience which produces the necessity of lying in children,” Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote, advising us against making our children fearful. But even more than that, I’d argue, it is the need for love.
The people who find themselves most betrayed by the lies of lovers are those who have the most unrealistic expectations about truthfulness. And the people who are most inclined to believe the lies they shouldn’t are the ones who tell themselves the biggest lie of them all: “I never tell lies.”
… So what are these lies we should tell and believe?
Think of the dozens of lies you tell your children (or your parents told you) in order to help them believe in themselves: “You can be whatever you want to be.” “Life gets easier.”
I was a know-it-all as a kid, and it made me unpopular: “Other kids are jealous because you’re smart.” These lies of love allow us to make it from one day to the next. “You’re the most beautiful woman in the room.” “You’re the only man who’s ever understood me.”
Students: Read the full article, then tell us …
— Do you think you lie two or three times every 10 minutes, as the statistic quoted here contends? If not, how often do you think you lie? Why, generally speaking, do you lie?
— When do you think you are lied to? For example, do you think friends, romantic partners or your parents have lied to you? Can you remember particular occasions? Do you think they were doing it to be kind, or for other reasons?
— Do you agree with this writer’s opinion that we have to lie to maintain good relationships? Why or why not?
— Are there “good lies” and “bad lies”? What examples can you think of to illustrate each category?
— Do you lie to yourself? How? Do you think it helps or hurts in the long term?
— When do you think it is especially important to tell the truth, even if it is painful?
Questions about issues in the news for students 13 and older.