Why Do We Lie?

Have you noticed that some people do not tell the truth, even when the truth would be easier? Why is that? Untruths come in the form of “white lies,” exaggeration, gossip, misdirection, not telling the whole story, bluffing, and outright lying.

There are many reasons for so-called compulsive lying. In some rare cases, this may indicate a deeper psychological or clinical disorder, especially in the case of criminal behavior.

  • The act of lying is a form of control over others, where telling the truth in a situation may feel like giving up control.
  • The liar feels that the truth would undermine the respect another has for him or her, even though the very act of lying would do that.
  • The lie feels like the truth to them, either through faulty memory or misunderstanding the facts.
  • An attempt to escape punishment.

Lie TruthIn his book Nonviolent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg, PhD, lists what he calls the “5 As,” the main reasons people lie.

  1. Acceptance
  2. Affection
  3. Appreciation
  4. Approval
  5. Attention

Being on the receiving end of lying is unpleasant at best. It’s common to feel hurt, betrayed or angry when someone you love lies to you. It may be helpful to consider what lesson you are learning in the situation, how you may better practice self-care in the future. This may also be a good time to evaluate your relationship with the one who lied – is it in your best interest to continue?

You may also wish to ask the person, “Why is this situation so important to you? Why do you need me to see it your way?” This non-accusatory, non-threatening conversation starter can lead to a discussion about the reasons behind the falsehood. If so moved, you might express compassion or empathy for how the person lying may feel, giving them safe ground to learn to be truthful instead.

If a conversation arises, remember that the person who lied is looking for one of those “As” Dr. Rosenberg listed, usually driven by fear. Consider in what situations you have been less than truthful with someone; putting yourself in their shoes may bring more empathy to the situation.

If you find yourself often lying to one degree or another, become aware of how those untruths affect others. Learn to listen to your inner soul wisdom and stop paying attention to the negative, critical voice that generates lies through fear.

Do you want to be loved for being yourself, with integrity and respect? If you learn better ways to communicate with honesty, you may find your life is more peaceful and secure.

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