Liar, Liar Pants on Fire

I watched him walk away with it in his hands. Later I asked him who took it, and he replied that he had no idea. This is a moment when you wish that trouser combustion was real. The emotions that bubble up when you know someone is lying to you can be overwhelming, but the lies also affect the perpetrator.

Research shows that we all lie. Studies also state we are lying more than we did 20 years ago, and some people lie more than others. Why? Why are we lying and why are we lying more?

We begin lying at an early age. If you are a parent you know this. Watching a toddler try to wiggle out of trouble denying they did what you just watched them do can be cute and humorous, so it is difficult to hold back a laugh while gently letting them know that lying is not acceptable. Perhaps our sweet baby picked up our lying habits, or maybe this is an inborn characteristic that we deal with all of our lives. Parenting is exhausting, and correcting our offspring is always challenging especially when their behavior is mimicking ours. We have to decide whether to let it go or correct it, and we have to address our own behavior.

Not dealing with dishonesty and making excuses for lying is easier. The classic excuse is that we do not want to hurt another person by telling them the truth. Not telling the truth seems to help our society in some cases. To keep spirits up, someone may avoid sharing the truth about a situation, but according to experts the overarching effect of lying is negative. If we are honest with each other, most lies are not being told to keep up spirits or from a place of compassion. Usually lies are told for selfish reasons like avoiding punishment or accepting an undeserved reward such as a good grade on a test where cheating occurred.

Being honest in all situations and circumstances is not easy, but working hard to be honest in as many situations as possible has tremendous benefits. Lying means we are pretending, hiding facts, and causing great harm to ourselves. Increased heart rate and high blood pressure are just two physical side effects of lying. Living honestly helps us sleep well, handle stress better, and become successful. Basically, we are lying to ourselves if we believe not telling the truth protects us. Even if we are trying to avoid trouble, we are selling ourselves short thinking we cannot handle the heat of the truth. And others notice the lies.

imageIn the last few years, I have become interested in examining the reasons and implications of lying. For me, it seemed as though incidents of lying were increasing, and I wanted to know why. I sought articles with research and studies, and I found an excellent documentary feature film on Netflix, (Dis)Honesty – The Truth About Lies. Based on Professor Dan Ariely’s work, this film has telling interviews, stories, and studies that are woven together to be entertaining as well as informative. The film ends hopeful, but we have to want to do and be better.

Another common manipulation of the truth is when someone says they did not tell a lie because they did not say anything. When someone knows something that involves and/or affects another person yet chooses not to tell them, that is lying by omission. It is true that they did not tell a lie, but they were not honest, and the situation is a lie. We want to avoid uncomfortable situations or conflicts, or perhaps we do not want to cause pain, but usually this creates more complications and often painful consequences for everyone. People are not as fragile as we believe they are in handling the truth.

During the time that I have been searching for some answers concerning dishonesty, I have become acutely aware of my own lies. This process has emboldened me to be better. It has been like cleaning my home really well. Getting into those hidden nooks and crannies to clear out the cobwebs takes hard work, but the results are good. The results are remarkable, in fact. Much like when you are exercising, you feel invigorated. Always being honest in a loving way is the goal, and even when choosing the kindest words, the truth can be frightening, but in the end, we have a sense of peace and a respect for each other.image

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