Do you think you’re a liar? Most of us don’t think we lie all that often, if at all. But, in truth, studies show that most of us lie almost every day! That’s a pretty scary statistic, considering almost anyone will tell you that the believes lying is wrong. So, if everyone thinks lying is wrong, why are so many people doing it?
To shift blame. Sometimes people lie because they feel bad they were late to a good friend’s surprise party (“I got stuck in a crazy amount of traffic”), missed a colleague’s wedding (“I don’t think I ever got the invitation”), or made an unpopular decision (“I wish I didn’t have to do this, but my boss said that it is essential”). People lie to protect themselves from blame. However, these small lies add up, and can make people believe they have permission to be careless and negligent. These lies get in the way of relationships – people learn not to trust you while you struggle to keep track of all the lies. In addition, these lies will eventually need to be dealt with – and the consequences might be more complicated than a simple, “I’m sorry I’m late” or “I think this is the right decision, even though it’s not very comfortable for everyone.”
To avoid confrontation. Other times, people lie because they don’t want to start a fight with a loved one. For instance, if your mother-in-law suggests that you buy your daughter a Rosh Hashanahoutfit from a specific store, but the store doesn’t carry dresses in her style, you might say something like, “We went there, but Shaindel couldn’t find anything that she liked.” Alternatively, if you are not happy with the job your housekeeper is doing, you might say to her, “I really like you, but we can’t afford a housekeeper right now.” These lies help you avoid confrontation, but they also keep you from real intimacy and without it your relationships will suffer.
To make yourself feel better. When we can’t figure out why our diet isn’t working or why we keep running out of money at the end of the month, we lie to ourselves to feel better. We say things like, “It doesn’t count if I eat the cookie my son left on his plate” or “I will buy this computer now, but pay for it by the end of the year because I’m going to get a raise.” As opposed to other types of lies, these are not hurtful to other people – only to ourselves. If you want to lose weight, you need to be honest with yourself about the extra cookies and French fries. If you want to stay out of debt, you need to be truthful about your purchases and buying power.
To be nice. These “white” lies are often the most altruistic type of lying people engage in. When someone asks us about her new haircut, we say, “I love it! It’s perfect,” when what we are really thinking is, “Oh no! What was she thinking? That will take months to grow out.” At other times, we tell someone, “I love this version of kugel, it’s so unique,” while really thinking, “I hope she never serves this when I am here again.” While these lies are meant for a good purpose, when used excessively or indeterminately, they end up making you seem inauthentic and untrustworthy. Perhaps a better way to be nice is to compliment with moderation, “I think it’s nice the way the bangs frame your face,” or “This kugel is unique. Where did you get the recipe?”