Why do we Lie?

“A Liar Should Have A Good Memory” I read this quote by Quintilian and I thought “Why do people lie?” Not long ago I was a preschool teacher, daily I would look into the children’s cute, innocent faces and lie. I would say such things as “We are all friends” or “We use our listening ears, everyone has something important to say” and my favorite phrase “We always say kind words to everyone”. I was a phony! Even in room 3, these corny expressions weren’t believable. Daily I saw Trevon plotting to take Matt’s blocks as soon as his back was turned and other covert shenanigans. I knew none of the phrases I spoke were true; so why was I saying them? Why do we lie? (admit it, you do it)
If the word lie causes you discomfort, then you perhaps call it a fib. I told lies daily and knowingly, what does that say about me? Whether we like it or not, most of us lie. Remember “We always say kind words to everyone”. Wow, that’s a whopper of a lie. The last time you were driving and some lunatic weaving in and out of traffic cut you off AGAIN, what were you saying in your head or screaming at him/her? I bet it wasn’t kind words; words like idiot, moron or a string of profanities may have spewed from your mouth. How about when you’re in a staff meeting and your boss is droning on and on about data or some equally boring topic, are you using your listening ears? Probably not. Instead, you’re probably off in your own world thinking about a to nothing to do with the topic. “Crap, I have to buy shampoo, I have to remember to shave my legs before meeting Greg tonight”. God only knows the thoughts floating through your head but chances you’re not captivated with your boss’s presentation.
According to Bella De Paulo, Ph.D., people lie to 1 in 5 interactions or 10 to 200 times per day. As we all know most people lie, it’s a nasty truth. Is the type of lie told more excusable or is a lie just a lie? Your cousin is wearing a hideous shirt and excitedly asks your opinion, “Wow, they are great” you exclaim. You lied to your cousin to spare her feelings; you had good intention so is it a real lie? Does the cause or the motivation behind the lie matter? Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. classifies lies into four categories.
The first sinister lie is the “little white lie”. We are all guilty of this lie. Sometimes a little white lie is one of omission. Sometimes this lie is done to “spare one’s feelings” but does it really? Webster defines omission as “someone or something that has been left or excluded”. Imagine this scenario, your mate comes home from the gym sweaty, smelly but with a huge grin on their face. They had a great leg workout and lost 2 pounds. You assume they’re smiling due to this wonderful news but they purposely didn’t mention that he/she bumped into their ‘hot” ex, one that you hate. Ladies, gentleman this is a lie of omission.
Second villainous lies are exaggerations or a tall tale. I once got caught in an exaggeration. I was in the 5th grade pretending I was cooler than I really was (I was not cool at all) “I can fit 20 cheesy puffs in my mouth at one time” I bragged to my classmates. After class we headed to a corner store, scraped together some change and left with cheesy puffs; there was no backing out now. Bragging rights were on the line so I was nervous; I shoved as many cheeseballs as I could into jaws. Sadly, I only fit 12 into my mouth, defeated I ran home to wash my orange face and fingers. Lies of exaggeration often are told due to insecurity or need for approval. Unfortunately, these types of lies usually only lead to a steeper decline in self-esteem.
I have mixed feelings about lies of self-protection. This lie is told not to appear vulnerable. Often you see bruises and cuts on your young neighbor. Frequently you ask about these marks “I fell down the stairs”, “I fell on the sidewalk”. You have a terrible feeling none of those events occurred. Technically the boy is a liar but… What do you think? I think we’ve all had situations in our lives when this type of lie was necessary; sad but true.
Baseball is supposedly America’s past time but I disagree, this next type of lie is worldwide, gossip. “Did you hear Sue is getting a divorce” “Bob in accounting is going to get fired”. We’ve all heard gossip and a lot of us have partaken in it. I admit that while I may not spread a lot of it, I do slowly move away from it, my ears straining to hear all the juicy details. Don’t judge me; if you are, just don’t be too harsh.

I hit the streets to talk to my fellow liars and get their opinions on this topic. I asked them 1) Do you lie? 2) Is it ok to lie? 3) What was the last lie you told? A dapper gentleman told me that he does indeed lie but it depends on the situation. “Sometimes the truth is better left unknown”. He admitted that he frequently lies internally (I was impressed with his honesty) An elderly woman I approached stated she very rarely lied but sometimes lying was necessary; she wouldn’t explain herself. She admitted that she and her husband recently lied to get out of a dinner invite. A middle age woman told me that she often lies to her son, “little white lies to make him feel good”. She told him that morning that his cursive looked “great” in reality it looked like a 3-year old’s scribbles.

“Liar, liar, pants on fire!” Fire can hurt us but so can lies; even well-intentioned ones. Many of us continue to lie, perhaps evenly daily. Why? I don’t have the answers so I’m asking you the readers, why do people lie? Why do you lie? I won’t judge you- I’m lying, yes I will.

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