When Lying Becomes a Force of Habit

Everybody tells lies, or do they? They may only be ‘white lies’ and most of us do this at some time or tend to be ‘economical with the truth’. We tell ourselves that it doesn’t really matter and convince ourselves accordingly.

For example: “The traffic today was dreadful”, rather than saying we were late in leaving the office. “I really like that new suit you are wearing”, rather than saying that we really think it looks awful. These are the ‘make life easier’ kind of lies and we tend to say them in order to avoid conflict or to protect someone’s feelings and so we can easily justify them.

However, some people feel compelled to frequently ’bend the truth’ in order to protect themselves from retribution or to gain financially or socially. Then there are those who hide the truth for no apparent reason so that it becomes a habit and way of life to them. They don’t even seem to know when they are lying as it seems to come naturally to them, and then they often become aggressive when challenged.

It seems that we hold different people to different standards when it comes to telling the truth. We expect, for example, less honesty from politicians than from scientists. We have an expectation of integrity from those who engage in research for the common good as opposed to a politician who is trying to get elected to office.

And so we come to the point in general where we dislike liars as it indicates a breakdown of trust and leads to broken relationships, either personal or in business. Serious deception usually makes it impossible for us to trust that person again. And so we teach our children to always speak the truth or to accept the consequences.

There are many reasons why people tell lies but here are just a few:

Crossing the line

All relationships come with a set of standards and expectations. Whether you are husband, wife, CEO, manager or assembly line worker – when you live in a society, you are expected to behave in a certain manner and to abide by defined rules and if you cross those boundaries, then you become unprotected and vulnerable. Therefore, in order to safeguard your relationships, either at home or at work, you tend to hide certain pieces of information so that no-one knows that you have actually crossed the line. And by so doing, you persuade yourself that you have complied and conformed to the norms of your society.

Becoming the norm

However, when one regularly conceals the truth, it becomes a habit that you may not realise and can possibly be traced back to your childhood when speaking the truth maybe got you into trouble or made you realise that you could get your own way if you withheld the truth. If you now, as a parent, lie to your children, then they will see this behaviour as the norm and will copy you as they will see your behaviour as acceptable.

Of course, constant lying can become very stressful as the person has always to remember exactly what they have said and to whom. They have to remember which story was said and why. In the words of the American author and humorist Mark Twain, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Those who lie as a matter of course have to live with their false information and identity. Over time, impatience, insecurity, self-doubt and aggression become the hallmark of the persistent liar.

Attention Seeking

Certain individuals lie to make themselves appear more important, or more successful. Maybe you were the only witness to an incident and suddenly there is a special uniqueness in what you say, as no-one else is party to this information. Exclusive information tends to lead the person to think that they can embellish their story in order to enhance their importance.

So if you want others to always tell you the truth, then it is important that you encourage an atmosphere that is conducive to it. Truth stems from inner strength and instils courage. Conversely, lies stem from inner weakness and eventually instils fear in those concerned.

Truth is bold by nature. I guess at the end of the day, we all discover our own inner truth.


Key Points

  • In the end, it is easier to tell the truth
  • Those who lie need an excellent memory
  • Be an exemplar to your children

Reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News

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