As a child my mother made it clear that she did not tolerate lying. At almost 80 years-old she will still say, “If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a liar.” If you know my mother then you would understand that is harsh language coming from her! My sister Diane had a boyfriend who seemed to have trouble with the truth and mom would say, “He’d lie when the truth sounds better.”
The truth is…people lie, and some do it much more than others, but why do we lie? Well according to Dr. Alex Lickerman, who has a very unfortunate last name by the way, he says there are at least six reasons people don’t tell the truth, and they all revolve around protecting ourselves. Dr. Lickerman says we lie to protect:
- Ourselves, lying often to avoid suffering painful consequences, shame, embarrassment, or conflict.
- Our interests. Probably the second most common reason we lie is to get what we want. We lie to get material goods (like money) and non-material goods (like attention from the telling of tall tales).
- Our image. We all want others to think well of us, yet we all do things we ourselves consider less than respectable at times. Rather than admit it, however, and suffer a diminution of others’ respect, we often cover it up. Or, having failed to act courageously and virtuously, we lie to appear more courageous and virtuous than we are.
- Our resources. We often lie to avoid expending energy or time doing something we really don’t want to do (going out with a friend we find boring, attending a party we know we won’t enjoy, working on a project about which we’re not really enthused) but don’t feel comfortable admitting.
- Others. When asked if we like a haircut, shoes, writing, or a performance, we often lie to protect our friends’ and family’s feelings. In their book Nurtureshock Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman present evidence that children lie to their parents far more often than parents realize because they think telling their parents what they want to hear will make them happier than telling them they failed to live up to their parents’ expectations in some way. According to the research, forcefully confronting any suspected lying only makes children work harder at lying better.
In a recent blog post I titled “Liar Liar” I discussed pathological lying, which takes all of the above to the extreme. The pathological liar is the type of person that will often “tell a lie when the truth sounds better.” But for the rest of us the above lies of protection are common according to research. And they are the reasons you and I find ourselves in those moments with the devil popping up on one shoulder, and an angel on the other. Now, I do want to say that I have issue with the number 5 “Others”, because if my wife has gained weight, and she asks if she has gained weight, then I’m lying my ass off! And for the record she has lost weight and looks hot (10 points for me).
I also found the fact that we often lie to protect “Our resources” interesting, because I don’t know anyone that doesn’t do that one. Seriously, we have all had that person who is always asking us to do stuff and we make up an excuse (another word for lie), because they are B-O-R-I-N-G! Can you imagine the following phone call:
Mrs. Boring: Hi I was wondering if you & Mr. Lovie want to come over for dinner on Friday?
You: Well we would love too, but you two really bore the hell out of us. Seriously, last time we came over…we felt like we were watching paint dry! Oh, and your new boyfriend is a complete loser. He was sooo annoying. And when is the last time you cleaned your cat’s litter box?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic! Do you think it is okay to lie in order to protect yourself or others? Below I posted a video that I found very interesting from TedTalks about how to know when someone is lying to you. My hope is that we will all watch it to protect ourselves, and NOT to become better liars! Please subscribe to The Next Half and share it by clicking on one of the social media tabs below!
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