Let’s face it, everyone lies sometimes, and if you say otherwise, you are lying to yourself. However, there is a major difference between a pathological liar and someone who tells a little white lie from time to time.
The intention is everything, and that is what we will be discussing here. While some may say that a lie is a lie, the fact of the matter is, that there are many motives for lying. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am NOT saying that it’s good to lie. But, for the sake of not lying in this article, I am going to go ahead and face that elephant in the room and just say it: we’ve all told a few lies in our life.
Now that that’s out of the way, here are 8 reasons why people lie.
1. To avoid punishment.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why people lie is to avoid being punished. Whether it’s when we are being pulled over and the cop asks us how fast we were going, or it’s a husband who cheated on his wife and is trying to avoid being divorced, punishment is a major motivator. Understanding the fear that drives us to lie to avoid punishment, Sissela Bok’s “Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life” dives deep into the moral quandaries that such situations present. This book can be a guide for anyone struggling with the temptation to lie when faced with consequences, encouraging a journey towards ethical clarity and personal integrity.
2. To manipulate.
Manipulation and lying go hand in hand. Manipulators are known to distort the truth to get what they want, and oftentimes will spin massive webs of lies. Unfortunately, in many cases, manipulative lies can be extremely harmful.
3. To avoid embarrassment.
No one likes to be embarrassed. As social beings, we want to fit in and when we are in the heat of the moment and someone says something embarrassing about us, our first instinct is to fight (lie) or flee the situation. Many opt for lying. The trouble with this is that eventually, our lies catch up to us. For those moments when the fear of embarrassment makes lying seem like the only option, Brené Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” encourages embracing your vulnerabilities. This book inspires courage and authenticity, showing how owning your story is more freeing than hiding behind falsehoods.
4. To impress someone else.
Ego is a very big motivator. We want people to be impressed with us, however, lying to impress someone will likely not get you far. However, that doesn’t stop someone from pretending to have a better (perceived) job than they have or a nicer car than they have, or so on and so forth.
5. To avoid hurting someone’s feelings.
How many of you have told a little white lie because you didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings? I’m pretty sure this is the most common reason for lying, or at least the most socially acceptable. Because no one wants to tell someone they look bad or break bad news in the wrong way. Harriet Lerner’s “The Dance of Deception: Pretending and Truth-Telling in Women’s Lives” navigates the delicate balance between honesty and kindness, providing strategies for being truthful without causing unnecessary pain.
6. To protect themselves.
Self-preservation is a big incentive to lie. When a real or perceived threat comes knocking at our door, the vast majority of us would lie to protect ourselves or someone that we love. That’s just reality.
7. To feel superior.
Here go the ego-incentivized lies again. But though, some people do lie so that they can feel more superior to someone else. Think of the person who acts as if they have it all together, all the while judging everyone else. Later, everyone finds out they have been hiding a lot of very telling secrets. See what I mean? The complex dance of ego and insecurity that prompts lies of superiority is dissected in “Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us” by Robert D. Hare, particularly illuminating for those dealing with or curious about the more pathological aspects of deceit.
8. Out of sheer curiosity.
And this is what we call a pathological liar, my friends. Honestly, there is nothing that gets on my nerves more than someone who lies about everything. You know, the kind of person that makes up random stories just to see how everyone will react to them? Talk about childish!