Why do people feel the need to lie?
The simple answer is fear. The fun or perhaps the difficult part is deciphering your fear. Perhaps the phrase “know thyself” could come in handy. Unfortunately, even though folks, to their detriment, tend to be far too egocentric, few are in touch with their true selves.
You could correctly assume that, to some degree, we all have Avatars. The face you choose to show the world, even while looking in the mirror. The fake-self or the stand-in is the reason antisocial media appears to be so popular. You can hide behind the public mask until the mask becomes your real persona.
Join us for a condensed tour of reasons why fear drives us to fib.
At the onset of the dreaded weekly departmental meeting, the boss pins you with an immobilizing glare. “It has been a month since I assigned the project to you. And yet, every week you come to these meetings without noticeable results. Why isn’t it completed?”
You hem and haw, blaming computer problems and other people, but never confess that you are overwhelmed and not up to the task. Whether you believe it or not, the boss and everyone in the meeting know you are lying to protect your ample posterior. The fear of losing your job is the impetus behind these particular lies. In the long run, asking for help is the honorable thing to do. And, with the added assistance, you will complete the project.
Contrary to what your ego tells you, there is no shame in asking for help. However, the shame of your exposed lies may leave a permanent blemish on how the boss views your overall competence.
During one of those necessary layoffs, a timid employee at a financial institution became a casualty. When caring coworkers attempted to comfort her, she shrugged them off, claiming relief. “It was too much. The job was a bad fit. I couldn’t deal with the pressure,” she explained.
Later, the staff discovered the extent of her incompetence. They found several pending loans buried in the bottom drawer of her desk. Instead of asking for help, she pretended they did not exist.
Borrowers do not apply for loans or loan extensions to experience self-inflicted brain damage. In this case, her lie was by omission. The people represented by those pending documents suffered.
Until they become civilized, children believe lies can save them from deserved punishment. But eventually, the falsehoods catch up to the tall tale-tellers. Consequently, the resulting punishment is greater than the one avoided by the lies.
This writer cannot speak for her siblings, but her mother could always tell when the little girl lied. “Come here and let me touch your nose. If it is soft, then you lied,” Mother would say. It was strange but the child’s nose was an infallible lie detector.
She figured out the trick years later. It was not her traitorous nose that gave her away. It was her eyes. Had the girl stood her ground and stared her mother in the eye without a side glance, the lie detector nose would have backed up her story.
If we pay attention to people’s eyes and body language, the truth or the lie is, more often than not, revealed. The uncomfortable body movements and shifty lying eyes give them away. On the other hand, practiced liars can look you in the eye with an unblinking stare or without squirming and weave stories rivaling anything the dream fairy could conjure.
Even folks who still possess some semblance of conscience will lie to protect themselves, loved ones, or even clients. As a balm to ease that pesky little voice within, they use mental gymnastics known as “mental reservation.” A necessary lie.
According to formerly acceptable moral theology, in a conflict between truth and justice, justice trumps. Mental reservation uses equivocation to bend the truth. A bit of twisted thinking to be sure, but who are we to judge?
Thanks to powerful people, including politicians, we can add another phrase: Alternative Facts. Liars always find creative euphemisms to couch their deceit.