The Problem with Lying

Everybody lies. There isn’t a person reading this article that hasn’t told a multitude of lies over the course of their life. Even little children, who we see as the most innocent amongst us, tell all kinds of lies as a matter of course, whether to get what they want or simply to get out of trouble. Lying is a basic part of our makeup, and no one is exempt from it. No matter who you are or what you believe in, you are a liar. It’s just part of the human condition.

Where we can start to make some differentiation is when we begin to categorize the various kinds of liars that exist. It isn’t whether or not you are a liar that makes you a bad person; what really matters is what kind of liar you are. Perhaps you only tell “little white lies” to either avoid embarrassment or to spare the feelings of someone you care about. Maybe you cheat on your taxes or bend the rules because you find them odious. At the extreme end, you might be someone who preys on others with your lies for financial gain.

We are told that sin is sin, and in the eyes of God this is certainly true. However, because we must deal with people as people, it’s one thing to understand in a philosophical way that all sin is bad and quite another to figure out how to deal with the bad acts that our fellow human beings tend to commit against us. When it comes to how we respond to the way others behave, a necessary level of categorization is required to measure our own actions.

Still, when it comes to something like lying, we each have a choice to make. There isn’t any getting around the fact that we’re going to lie about something. Many times it’s automatic. Perhaps you have an active philosophy of never telling a single lie, no matter how uncomfortable it might make you, but the reality is that you simply can’t keep to that. There will be times when the lie slips out automatically, and perhaps you don’t have the resolve to immediately correct yourself. You end up lying by accident.

For myself, I have a strict policy of telling the truth when it’s important. On topics where the lie being discovered will have significant effects on my life, I always tell the truth and I do so for a very specific reason: it isn’t worth the additional negative consequences of getting caught. It’s bad enough to have to deal with whatever the problem is in the first place, but the loss of trust and the additional anger you have to deal with after having lied to someone important just isn’t worth it.

Another problem with lying is having to constantly deal with the fear of it being discovered. If it’s a significant lie, such as falsifying your resume to get a job or cheating on your partner, it can become quite difficult just to get through your day without worrying that someone will find out and expose you. Spending your days with a massive lie in the back of your mind is no way to live. It’s far preferable to just tell the truth up front and get it over with.

As I said in the beginning, we all lie, and I’m no exception. Sometimes there just isn’t any way around it if you want a positive outcome. You might have to just say what you have to say, or perhaps you omit something to prevent a fight. It might come out anyway, but if you keep your lies to small issues, you can usually avoid the trust issues that come with lying about the big things. People are generally understanding if your motives are pure, even if your actions are not. It’s when you let yourself go and lie for nefarious purposes that you start to run into trouble.

What do you think about lying? How often do you do it? Do you lie for good reasons, or for selfish ones? We all engage in socially unacceptable behavior for one reason or another, and our motives are the determining factor as to whether or not it was justified. Before we step outside of our moral construct and engage in an act such as lying, it is important to determine if it’s truly necessary, as well as why we are doing it.

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