Why do we lie?

When I was in Grade 4, I stole  money from my neighbour Paul. He was one of my good mates. I would go to his house often and he had this big glass jar full of fifty cent coins. When he left the room, I would take one. Each time I was there. Until. I got caught. Not by Paul. Much worse. By my Mum.

She found a 50 cent coin in my jeans when I put them in the wash. She also found a pile of them in my top drawer when she was putting my clean clothes away. Of course my first response when she asked me where they came from was; ”I have NO idea”!

The next day Dad nudged me into the ‘walk of shame’ across the road to Paul’s, with all the coins I had collected, to tell him I had done it and apologise. To top it off, his Mum was my piano teacher so I had to front up 2 days later for lessons. The embarrassment was Richter scale level.

I’d love to say I learned from this experience but I must confess I gave the same response when she found a packet of cigarettes in my top drawer 8 years later.

It’s amazing how little we value our parent’s smarts in these moments.

Lies come in all forms: ‘I wasn’t there’. ‘You look great’. ‘Yeah I’ll be there’. That’s a great idea’. You get the gist.

So why do we lie? And sometimes quickly and easily.

  • We don’t want to hurt another
  • We want to impress
  • We need to be right
  • So we don’t have to take responsibility
  • To prevent conflict
  • Maybe it’s not safe for us to tell the truth. Or maybe that’s what we tell ourselves.

At worst our lies can turn into gaslighting another. It might sound like: ‘How dare you think I wouldn’t tell the truth’.

We are mostly aware of when we are bending the truth. We either sense it in the moment with that nagging feeling in our stomach or we walk away when the adrenaline has subsided and wonder why we did it so quickly and easily.

A study in 2020 by Zety found that 96% of the workforce lie. WTF! The most common are about being sick, family emergencies (65%), doctors’ appointments and family deaths. We are pulling out the big stuff too. And guess how many are never caught? 91%. Whoa!

We are not good at having the awkward conversations. In a way that doesn’t feel threatening.

I think when we tell porky pies it’s a good opportunity to reflect.

Yep, reflect on ourselves.

Not assassinate yourself and call yourself names. That helps no one.

We could quietly ponder why. Why did I feel it was necessary to bend the truth?

I think the reward is in there. If we dare to have the courage.

Why did I lie? Because I didn’t want to live in the repercussions of what I had done. Simple. But I now understand that holding on to the lie causes more stress and shame that I am prepared to hold on to. What about you?

PS – If you loved this then you might just be super keen to learn about our kickarse culture program ‘Working as One’. Send me a note if you’d like to have a chat.