Why Do People Lie? - Reasons for Lying

Most Everybody, at One Time or Another, Has Lied

Tell the truth now: that includes you and me. In fact, some people, sad to say, lie almost all the time.

Psychologists call these people compulsive or psychopathic liars. They tell lies even when they don't have to. Even the youngest of children will lie, especially if they think by doing it, they won't get punished for something. When children first learn how lying works, they lack the moral understanding of when to refrain from doing it.

Because lying can have such destructive and harmful consequences to both the liar and the one being lied to, I've written several blogs on this topic.

There are different kinds of lies, as well as different degrees of lying. It seems so many people I talk to have a problem with lying whether it's their own, or someone else's.

While maybe everybody lies at some point, few understand how destructive it can be, why we do it, and how to stop it. So, let's answer those questions.

Let's begin by defining what lying is:

Lying is saying something with the intent of creating a false belief or impression. It's an attempt to get someone to believe something that is not true.

Lying - Self Evaluation

  • How many lies do you think you have told this last week?
  • Who did you tell the lies to?
  • Why did you tell the lies?
  • How do you feel about the lies you told now?

Sometimes a lie might seem unintentional, or it may have been told to save someone else's feelings. For example, someone may say to another, "That sure is a pretty dress!", when the person knows it's ugly. We all have the capacity to lie.

Why Do People Lie?

FEAR

It was Tad Williams who said, "We tell lies when we are afraid... afraid of what we don't know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us. But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger." People can be so afraid of what might happen if they told the truth. Maybe they have done something wrong and are afraid of the consequences of their actions, so they lie to cover up what they did. As is often said about political scandals: It's not the crime that gets you in trouble, nearly as much as the cover-up.

MANIPULATION

Lies are typically motivated by a desire to get other people to either do something or not do something, or to make a decision in the favor of the person doing the lying. Someone might lie to get something they desire such as sex, money, status, power, love, etc. Lori said: "I'm young, but I realized quickly lustful people know how to get what they want, even if it means lying to you about how they feel." Probably the word love is used in more lives than any other. How often a guy will say to a girl (or vice versa), "I love you", simply to get the other person emotionally stirred up, so they can be more easily manipulated.

PRIDE

Many times, a person will lie because of pride. They use it for nothing more than a tool to create a favorable image of themselves. This leads to exaggeration, which is a form of lying. Often people will create fascinating, yet completely false, stories to improve their image.

Bottom line: We deceive other people because we think it serves our purposes in some way. And it's easy!

What's the Big Deal About Lying?

It becomes an addiction.

When you get away with a lie it often drives you to continue your deceptions, and in the process, we ruin relationships, hurt others, lose our integrity, and lose our peace. Truth becomes a feared enemy of the liar. It's a sick and tragic cycle that doesn't ever have a happy ending.

Lying may seem simple and harmless at first, but just like any addiction, you'll soon find yourself trapped and entangled more than you could have ever imagined.

Liars don't have peace

 Lying is extremely stressful. It causes you to be constantly looking over your shoulder and wondering who might be finding you out. You're always running through the lies you've told in your head, trying to keep track of what you've told to which person, and what's the next lie you need to tell. When you're honest, you don't have those worries or the negative consequences of your lies.

Roselyn commented: "I can say that not lying is a very relaxing way of life." The fact that you don't have to worry about remembering old lies or getting in trouble later on when the truth comes out (because it always does) puts a lot more relief in your life. Even when it's hard, telling the truth always has a better outcome than a bunch of lies.

Lies ruin relationships

 People are constantly looking to see who they can trust and who they can't. People are actually much more perceptive and aware of who tells the truth and who doesn't. Over time, honesty shows itself as a trait that is beautiful and deeply respected.  Liars are not respected.

This is true in all our relationships whether it's dating, family, friends, or at work. Macey put it so well: "It's always best, to be honest. It makes any and every relationship strong and healthy."

Someone commented about the value of being honest: "I used to lie a lot. I would lie only because it was easier than explaining the truth. And I have finally grown to realize that it's easier to [be honest]. Being honest and open has actually gotten me further than lying. My parents trust me, and I feel good about myself. And when you feel good about yourself then you know that everything is okay." This person has come to realize that when we tell the truth and live it, we become emotionally and spiritually stronger every day.

Telling the Truth Increases Security

It stands to reason that if you are not always working to stay one lie ahead of your last lie, you will be more at peace and have greater security in your relationships with others.  The wisest man in the Bible, King Solomon, understood this well. He wrote, "Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out." Proverbs 10:9

God speaks of the dangers of lying often in the Bible. In fact, "Do not lie" is one of the 10 Commandments. God understands how much pain lying brings to both the liar and those being lied to and so He tells us not to lie in order to protect us from pain. The Bible also says, "For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all." Luke 8:17

Here is more of what God says about lying - Verses of Hope for Struggling with Lying

Following God can offer so much security in many aspects of life. For more on a relationship with God read Learn More About God

Honesty Challenge

I want to offer up a challenge to all of us. Would you be willing to commit to a life of honesty and integrity? If you're up for this life-changing challenge, please write me a comment below, and tell a friend about your commitment too.

Has lying become a part of your everyday life? Need more help? Listen to Dawson's Podcast, How Can I Stop Lying - EP -19.

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138 comments on “Why Do People Lie? - Reasons for Lying”

  1. I am willing to live a lie-free life from now on, I only ever lied to make situations simpler but I notice that the truth is much easier

  2. Sorry to say this, but most people DO lie. It's good to hold the belief that there really is good in everyone. Just don't trust anyone except the people who have earned it.

  3. I have found myself being dishonest and telling lies to my husband...the person I love the most in the world. I am dishonest/lying to him because at the time something happens, I know he is under so much stress and worry that I don't want to upset or hurt him. By doing that all it does is cause him to not trust me, which I totally understand. The sad part is that I do consider myself to be a good person and I don't want to be dishonest. It truly breaks my heart to hurt him in this way as he is my best friend and the only man I have ever truly and deeply loved. I just want to stop my nonsense...I have been more honest with him in the last 6 weeks, but I blew it today. I don't want to lose him😢

  4. My brother lied to me about a family matter. He told me my out of town bother and his wife were coming to a party. It was a very fancy party and I had previously declined the invitation.
    I did not want to go at all. I had many other pressing matters at hand as well.
    It turned out another guest cancelled at the last minute, so they called me at the 11th hour to let me know there was an empty place, even though I had previously declined the formal invitation.
    Well - if he had just said that it would have been one thing. However, I communicated immediately with the other brother who said he had no plans to attend.
    He lied to me to try to persuade me go to the party as it was very expensive and they had already paid for the plate of a DIFFERENT guest that had to cancel at the last minute (he mentioned this person's inability to attend at the party which, at the last moment I attended.) He went so far as to continue the lie at the party for my "benefit".
    It was a bald faced lie. I cannot believe my own brother would lie to me about such a thing. This makes me even more disinclined to ever accept any invitation from him ever again.
    We are middle aged people. Lying to spare someone's feelings is one thing. Lying to manipulate someone into doing something they really do not want to do is another matter.
    I cannot believe my brother lied about this. It was not an urgent matter or anything like that. Just an out and out lie. Would it be so hard to just ask - hey - are you sure you won't reconsider?
    Lying erodes trust and relationships in general.
    I cannot stand people lying to me or about me. "The dog ate my homework" is something one would expect from a small child, not an adult brother.
    I went to the party - it was nice but an overextension of what I really needed to do. As a caveat to this, I received an email later on that I was added and not "replacing" someone.
    That they just wanted me to change my mind and come.
    This whole story made me feel very uneasy.
    I know we are not perfect humans. One thing I cannot stand is when my intuition is telling me one thing (the truth) and someone else is telling me something else (a deliberately fabricated story.) It makes me feel very ill at ease, to say the least.
    I sent the host an email saying that I was aware of the fabricated story and would appreciate honesty in the future. It is more beneficial for both parties. For some reason certain people think certain little lies are okay. They really are not, especially when they are so transparent. It is no way to build trust.

  5. 'Everybody lies...' ? What planet do you live on? I like to think that most people are truthful and honest. I certainly am. 'How many lies have you told today?' That's easy - none. I told none yesterday either. Nor last year, or the year before that. I have nothing to lie about. I do nothing wrong and have nothing to be ashamed of. Yet people have lied to me. What I find amazing about liars is that they seem to think that no-one is wise to them. That no-one can tell that they're lying. It's really a way of saying, 'everyone is stupid exept me.' It's sad and pathetic behaviour indulged in by cowards and criminals. Not by everyday folks.

    1. I can agree with you on this topic, I confronted my neighbour about his lying and he even lied and slandered me to my face while I was trying to be helpful to him, then he threatened me. As you say ' they seem to think that no-one can tell that they're lying ....... indulged in by cowards and criminals.

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