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Why Do We Lie?

By Joseph Tropper, MS, LCPC

Clients often report to me how they or their loved ones are full of lies. This can certainly make things difficult for one trying to live an honest life or trying to be in a relationship with another person. When working with a therapist, it is important to be open and honest so that you can objectively explore your life and situations together, but it is understandable that this may take time to happen.

People often ask me, “Can you help me figure out why I am always telling lies?” The answer is simple- lying is a maladaptive coping mechanism that we have learned. This coping mechanism functions for four main reasons:

  1. Habit – it’s just become our nature and we are more comfortable with lies
  2. Defense – we’re afraid of the consequences if we were to tell the truth
  3. Gain – there’s something that we hope to gain by telling a lie
  4. Mistake– we are missing information or think we know something that we are really mistaken about

Until you acknowledge which of the above four reasons (multiple or all) accounts for why you find yourself lying, then we cannot stop the lies.

Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) has some of the best quotes about lying

In an essay entitled “On the Decay of the Art of Lying”, he writes:

“The lie… man’s best and surest friend is immortal…”

That certainly is a great summary of the eternal presence of lies. Now, I don’t want someone reading this and thinking that it’s okay to lie, the point here is that lying is our default if we don’t work on it.

Another quote:

“Note that venerable proverb: ‘Children and fools always speak the truth.’ The deduction is plain: adults and wise persons never speak it.”

“Lying is man’s most universal weakness”

“Carlyle said ‘A lie cannot live.’ It shows that he did not know how to tell them.”

Here is where the Twain quotes start to focus on the consequences of lying and begin to prod one to reconsider that course of action:

“The glory which is built upon a lie soon becomes a most unpleasant encumbrance.”

“A lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

Here is my all-time favorite:

“If you tell the truth, you never have to remember anything.”

How true that is. How many times have I seen a client carrying on with a lie between him or herself and a spouse, child, friend or boss and it only gets more and more obvious, to everyone else but the liar him/herself.

If you are a client of mine and you are reading this, don’t get nervous, I am not going to ask you to quit cold turkey, but if you do the work and understand the causes and gains you are hoping for in telling the lie, you will find the willpower and motivation to start telling the truth on a faster path than denial.

About the author

Joseph Tropper, MS, LCPC, is a licensed clinical therapist and the Director of Operations at RCC.

Learn more about him HERE [1]; Schedule a consultation HERE [2]