Most people you ask will say lying is bad, unethical, immoral, unreligious even, but everybody does it. We’re supposed to build relationships and have social interactions based on trust, affection, love, respect, etc. and yet we find it hard to be honest, not just with others but also ourselves.

No, you definitely do it too. Not all the time, maybe not about big/important things but you’re not the exception. And there are so many types of lies, you might be doing it unknowingly. There’s white lies (ones that we tell other people to make them feel better), rationalizations (lies we tell to make ourselves feel better), lies of omission, exaggerations, polite lies, deflecting, deception, and so many more. Even broken/unkept promises could be considered a form of lying. (For a more comprehensive list, check more lies.)

It’s pretty obvious that there are a few factors that go into how we rate them. I’m mostly interested in motive and effect. Why and what are the consequences?

For example – Could I ever tell my sister that our dad died in terrible pain while I just stood there kneeling, asking hopelessly if there was anything I could do to help? There wasn’t. He had fought cancer and other health issues deriving from that for more than 15 years. His body was failing from diseases, drugs, age. I told her he passed away peacefully. My lie is justified, right? I did it in order to prevent further suffering.

The idea for this post came from something else actually. A friend of mine who had a hard life is now settling down, girlfriend with kids, nice home, steady job. Pretty nice, no? In exchange he just decided to give up a big part of who he was, to repress his dreams, desires and aspirations in order to fool himself that he’s finally loved, needed, appreciated. This life that he’s creating is based on fear of being alone, of being depressed and in pain, on his delusion of what “normal” is.

If lying to yourself makes you happy, is that wrong? He’s only hurting himself to feel better.

Is it better to lie to ourselves than others? How long and how far is it too much?

I feel like anything I do or say would make it worse. Should I burst his bubble? Could I? I know there’s no actual right thing to do, just like with most things in life. Perhaps it’s just my subconscious lying to me that there is a right way and it’s all in my head. Perhaps I don’t actually have a sister or any friends and this was just a mental exercise.

From an article by Leanne ten Brinke, Dayna Stimson and Dana R. Carney entitled Some Evidence for Unconscious Lie Detection (Psychological Science 2014): “To maximize survival and reproductive success, primates evolved the tendency to tell lies (and the ability to accurately detect them)”.

We didn’t invent lying, it’s part of our lives, it’s in our nature to do it (but it doesn’t mean we can’t resist this urge). Some truths hurt. I guess, in the end, the question is how much lying can you live with?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s