Lying and dishonesty are common behaviors. Scientists claim that the average person lies about 200 times each day. In a 10-minute conversation, the average person tells three lies. Granted, most of these lies are of the harmless variety. Lies such as, “I love your shoes” or “great meeting” happen frequently.
But more insidious types of lies can create significant damage to yourself, your reputation, and others. While lying might seem like the easy way out, it often backfires and creates more challenges than it solves.
There are several rationalizations for lying:
1. Lying avoids conflict. Sometimes it’s easier to tell your wife she looks good in a dress than to tell her it’s two sizes too small and she looks like a couple of bulldogs stuffed into a spandex bag. Sometimes the truth just isn’t worth the trouble.
2. Lying can be way to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. After listening to your friend’s awful violin recital, it isn’t nice to tell them they sound awful. No one is harmed with this type of lie.
3. Lying is way of protecting your privacy. Maybe you like to worship the moon by dressing up as a chicken and dancing around a stalk of corn at midnight. You might decide it would be prudent to keep such things to yourself. Some things aren’t anyone else’s business.
In these instances, most people won’t hold your lying against you. Certain types of lies are more acceptable than others. It largely depends on the context and the purpose.
Lying on a larger scale can have more serious consequences. Lying has several costs that must be paid sooner or later:
1. You lose trust. Once you’re caught lying, people naturally assume that you’ll do it again. After you’re caught a couple more times, your reputation is ruined. Everyone becomes wary of everything you say. Imagine how it feels to tell the truth and then be accused of lying.
2. You lose self-esteem. Naturally, you feel a little bad about yourself after lying. Over time, you grow to have a negative opinion about yourself. Self-esteem is an important part of good mental health and happiness. Lies aren’t worth the loss of self-esteem.
You must not think you’re good enough on some level if you feel the need to lie about yourself.
3. You appear weak. We either lie to accomplish something we don’t think we can accomplish without lying, or we lie to avoid dealing with an uncomfortable situation. Neither looks good to others. Those that lie are viewed as weak.
4. It creates stress. Lying is stressful. You’re concerned about how believable your lie is. You’re also concerned about getting caught in the short-term or down the road.
5. No one has a good enough memory to get away with it. Your memory must be excellent if you’re going to lie on a regular basis. Everything you say that’s even tangentially related to the original lie must support that lie. Clever people will eventually see through your games. Few things are more embarrassing than to be caught in a lie.
Lying is a convenient way to get through the day. Small lies can spare the feelings of others and protect you from criticism. It’s difficult to accurately describe the difference between an acceptable and unacceptable lie. But understand that more serious instances of lying undermine your reputation, self-esteem, and stress levels.
People respect those that tell the truth, especially under challenging circumstances. See how many times you lie over the course of a full day. Determine the purpose of lying in each case. You’ll learn a lot about yourself.