The Truth About Lying

We are all liars. Even those of us who try not to be.

We are taught as children to mean what we say, and say what we mean; that honesty is the best policy; that the truth shall set you free, yet, the average human lies at least once a day, often more. In fact, lying is a learned behavior, and our youth begin heading down the path of deceit as early as 6-7 months old, and have typically mastered the art by age 3 upon watching and mimicking their parents.

Some of these lies, as one might argue, are harmless half-truths, white lies. This is when you call in to work with a stomachache, but are really fighting off the escapades of the night before. This is when you tell someone their new haircut looks great, their run-on story is fascinating, and that you love the itchy new blanket they knitted you for Christmas. This is when you don't eat a second portion of the burnt pork chops your spouse cooked because you "had a big lunch."

It's so easy, after all, to let untruths roll off our tongues if it means we can deter our responsibilities for a moment or keep another person's feelings intact. Twisting the truth can actually be a means of preventing social discourse or for maintaining a reputable reputation.

However, the lying doesn't stop there. According to Robert Feldman, the author of The Liar in Your Life, new acquaintances lie to one another on average 3 times in a ten-minute conversation. We also are lied to about 200 times every single day. If that's not enough to make you skeptical of any information you receive, we only detect lies with a 54% percent accuracy rate, meaning most of the lies we hear go unnoticed, unless, of course, we are gifted in reading body language, specifically, microexpressions, which is usually just termed as "following our gut."

We don't all set out to be disingenuous. On the contrary, a quarter of all lies that we tell are meant to help another person or prevent harm from coming their way. Still, there are eight recognized types of lies, such as blatant lies of commission, and subtle lies of omission. There's a reason the legal oath has the clause, "The whole truth, and nothing but the truth." It's simply to cover their bases.

Despite this propensity for dishonesty, trust is consistently considered to be the top indicator of a successful relationship, the foundation of all friendships, the non-negotiable element in any business exchange. Knowing the truth about lying, in essence, breeds more questions than answers.

What lies do we tell the most?

Why do we believe some lies and not others?

How do we make solid judgments when we're given so much false information?

What can we learn about ourselves through what we choose to say and what we choose to hide, what we are willing to hear and what we refuse to hear?

Lying is evolutionary, and has played a key role since the beginning of time in human advancement. Surprisingly, even animals engage in the occasional fib or bluff to get the upper-hand. For example, Koko, a gorilla from the Gorilla Foundation in Northern California, when questioned by her handler about her steel sink being ripped out the wall, blamed it on her pet kitten (I could not make this up). We all tell lies to benefit ourselves, to influence others, to raise our status or to protect those around us. This ranges from costuming ourselves with push-up bras and spray tans to saying we scored higher on a test, we learned our lesson, or that we never meant to break a heart.

No one likes being lied to. The underlying feeling of betrayal can wreak havoc on a person's self-esteem and ability to connect with others or to feel safe and secure in their surroundings. We hear spun stories daily, false news, and we take it in, generally keeping only the information that is relevant, that aligns with what we perceive to be truth. The lies we will most readily believe from others, are simply the lies that coincide with the ones we most often tell ourselves, and the truth of the matter is that we tend to clutch tightly to biases about ourselves and also about the world around us. Unfortunately, we are rarely ever daring enough to accept that our truth may not be everyone's truth, and that that's okay.

So we continue on like modern-day Pinocchios, telling ourselves that we didn't overeat last night, or that if we just had this one thing/person/accolade, we would finally be happy, or that if we simply ignore the pain, it is sure to go away. Only our noses don't grow, our hearts rarely race, and we reinforce that our authentic selves are not good enough, which is the most dangerous lie of all.

We all can make an effort to be more open, more honest, more real with ourselves and our presentation of that to the world. We can create an environment where what you see is what you get, where no one needs to wear a mask, where no one needs to craft a cover story.

We can do better. We must do better, and that's the God's honest truth.

Report this Content

More on Odyssey

Facebook Comments