Why Do People Lie?

Why lie?
When so-called leaders lie, a questions that haunts me is – why do people lie? What is the need for successful and responsible people to lie? Is it their natural behavior?

‘Never lie,’ is the first advice all children are given yet they learn to lie. Researchers who have studied and recorded the behavior of many children, teenagers and adults say: ‘All people lie,’ as this trait seems to be ingrained in human beings as much as trust. They consider it to be a ‘developmental milestone just like walking and talking.’ Some even call it “creative” aspect of brain.

    People lie out of fear:

Fears may hibernate inside our unknown and dark alleys but they do surface at the crucial moment – fear of not reaching up to the high expectations of parents or employers, fear of losing the trust of our emotional anchors or people around us, fear of stumbling or losing the position we are holding and many such situatons that scare us away from truth.

Children learn to lie to save themselves from punitive action but the most innocent lies that are easily detected do encourage them to embellish the ways they can be told – a natural brain process. While we dismiss the little lies of children with a smile or  laughter and reitetrate the age-old advice – ‘never lie,’ we know lies cannot be eliminated from our lives.

    People lie out of love:

A spouse or a lover who cheats, who has been spending hours away in the company of friends or seeking his/her own pleasures doesn’t want to hurt by telling the truth. He could be working on his behavior, he could be testing the new waters or could be in a conundrum about a new relationship, which he is unsure of.

Another person may hide his crumbling career or health issues from a mother to keep her away from unnecessary angst. People hide the harsh facts of their own life from their children and put up a façade of happy relationship to give them a healthy environment to grow into happy children.Lies Quote

    People lie to manipulate others:

A friend who lies to hog your attention or a colleague who lies to win favors and lets you down could be manipulating your goodness. In such cases your own virtues propel lies as you may never suspect that your friend may back stab you to get a higher position. Even your boss may take advantage of your truthful nature to extract some facts out of you or by passing on extra work to you by lying that he admires your sincerity.

Family members lie to manipulate us against each other to score personal points, to show their kindness or win respect. Sometimes such lies become as dangerous as snatching a share of property or hurting self-esteem to the extent of alienating them from each other.

    People lie to avoid confrontation:

This is the most common lie of modern times. In an attempt to be polite or save his skin, a husband lies to his wife when she showers all sorts of questions on him. It is very easy to lie and evade answers, which may lead to unpleasantness. Whatever the questions…one big lie – ‘I was busy’ or ‘I forgot’ is sufficient in all cases.

One of my colleagues would keep his cool in the face of atrocious lies against him. When asked how could he digest them, I was aghast at his response: ‘I don’t want any confrontation!

“Lies…they are like a cancer in the soul. They eat away what is good and leave only destruction behind.” – Cassandra Clare

People also lie to shift blame, to take advantage of the situation, to win admiration, to avoid embarrassment and to wriggle out of a difficult situation.

   On a light-hearted note, here are some harmless lies: (detrimental though to trust)

‘You are looking gorgeous!’…to a woman who is wearing a weird outfit.

‘Who says you are overweight? You are absolutely ok.’…to a sensitive woman.

‘I am late due to heavy traffic.’…oft told lie!

‘I am about to reach in 10 minutes.’… when you haven’t even started!

‘I have a meeting.’…not revealing with whom!

‘I am not hungry.’…coming home after a day’s work.

‘I would love to accompany you but I am busy’…to tick you off!

I love how Oliver Goldsmith,  an Irish novelist, playwright and poet, shrugged off lies…“Ask me no questions, and I’ll tell you no fibs.”

Thank you for reading this. Please share your valuable reflections, as they are much appreciated.

If you have liked this post, please share it at your favorite social networks.

Balroop Singh.

47 thoughts on “Why Do People Lie?

  1. I agree, telling lies is ingrained in human nature.
    Studies have found babies as young as a few months lie (though not in words) lie to grab attention. Though as far cheating in relationships (especially marriage) goes, I believe it is never out of love, it is merely to avoid the consequences.

    1. There are two types of relationships…one, that is based on love and the other that pulls on compromises or compulsions and lies…quite difficult to wriggle out due to a number of reasons.

  2. Great post, Balroop! I believe harmless lies in order to spare someones feelings are sometimes necessary, but telling a lie for personal gain is never a good thing.

  3. Great post, Balroop. It’s weird how adults tell kids not to lie and then punish them for telling the truth. If you’re going to get punished either way, a convincing lie is the best option. I used to lie as a little kid, mostly because I was so insecure and wanted to seem more impressive than I was. Eventually, I stopped and realized that truth was just a whole lot easier. 🙂

    1. Exactly Diana…I have got punished or disliked many times for telling the truth. People around us also teach us to tell lies, sometimes to please them, sometimes when they fail to understand our genuine problems. Thanks for your insights.

  4. Great breakdown of lies Balroop. You summed it up well by the heart of your story, a liar is usually lies out of fear, covering up insecurity. 🙂

  5. Balroop, you’ve teased out just about every reason I can fathom as to why people lie. I used to lie to cover up dark secrets I was forced to keep about my life at home. I was young and there was no point of reference for what went on in that house. So I invented a better life to my friends. But I began losing the thread of what I said and to whom. Eventually I said less or avoided certain sensitive subjects. And began being more honest with myself and then others. This was, however, a process of some twenty years as I now recollect. And all the while, I felt better and cleaner and more whole.

    Good post, great subject. Wish everyone could be more in their integrity. Can’t help but think it would be a far better world if they were. Aloha. 🙏🏽

    1. You must be a smart and wise girl to keep the dark secrets in the cellars, quite hard to deal with them alone. Lies may help us momentarily but most of the lies expose themselves sooner or later…some of them are too detectable even when they are being told if you are intuitive enough to look through them. When we know the other person lied, we choose not to tell, just out of respect or knowing the futility of telling.
      Thanks for sharing your experiences Bela, Stay blessed!

  6. Such a well-rounded, measured post about lying, Balroop. Agree that we all lie for many reasons, as you said out of fear, love and confrontation. Sometimes lying is the easy way out to get what we want or to stay in the background because we don’t want to be noticed, and we just don’t want to own up to what we did. As a kid, my parents always chided me not to lie and my mum said that if I lied, the God’s above will cut my tongue off (in Chinese culture, and it’s some kind of superstition). That sort of scared me as a kid lol.

    I like your positive take at the end on lying. Some lies can indeed be harmless, especially the one about the wearing a weird outfit. I guess if the outfit is not that eye catching and you can hold back your laughter or surprise, then why not lie and let the person carry on feeling good about themselves and their individual choices 😀

    1. Thank you Mabel for your kind words about this post, I am glad you could connect with it. Fear is known to be a strong deterrent, especially to scare children. Remember the fable of Pinocchio who lied and his nose grew bigger and bigger? Yet just telling and scaring children doesn’t work because they are smart enough to understand that people around them lie so frequently! I could never tell those harmless lies though my friends did with a straight face, admiring something, which didn’t deserve the compliment.

      1. Pinocchio is such a a good example of what happens when you lie. But if parents lie, children might also follow suit and you are right in saying children are smart about lying – they might even do it better! You are one honest soul, Balroop ;:)

  7. I wrote something about lies not long ago Balroop. In fact many people said that they hated others telling lies but after thinking about it, would realize that we all lie a little bit every day. For our well being or for the well being of others.
    The worst lie to me is the one that is used to manipulate others. Consequences can be dramatic.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject. Always interesting.

    1. True Marie, the worst lies are told to manipulate people and i wonder how naive such persons are! When we are young, we may not understand manipulations but once we happen to get trapped, it is better to learn from that experience yet some people let it happen again and again!

  8. Good reasons. I agree with all of them. I’ll add one more: They think it doesn’t matter; they think no one will know so why not? The ugliest sort of lie, innit?

    1. No one will know? They must be living in fools’s paradise as all lies expose themselves sooner or later. I could detect them but never told that I knew a certain person was lying. How can you say that?

  9. There was an interesting movie made a few years ago where everyone told the TRUTH, there were no such things as lies. It was hilarious because it really put into perspective the value of a white lie to save someone’s feelings for example. I believe this topic is the plot of every film made where the main character has to face up to a lie they have been telling themselves. Excellent post, Balroop and very thought provoking. Lying can quickly get out of control and even if we can’t imagine a world without white lies, we have to be very careful of the damage lying can do.

    1. I agree Lisa, certain lies do have importance or it would be very embarrassing to say stark truths all the time. I think I have seen that movie. 🙂 It is about a lawyer probably who can’t lie and exposes everyone with his truths and yes, the situations are hilarious.

  10. I think all lying is manipulation, no matter the reason. One hopes to create an outcome that better conforms to one’s narrative than what the truth is perceived to elicit. Even if I lie to prevent hurting someone’s feelings, it’s still mostly about me…I don’t want to feel or appear like a bad person. Another great post, Balroop. You always nudge my little grey cells into contemplation 🙂 ❤️

    1. Wise reflections Tina. Thanks for sharing.
      Manipulators thrive on lying and use one person against each other through this tool. I have seen such bosses and family members who create rifts and spoil relationships through lying. Nemesis catches up with them soon! 🙂

  11. Great question! Why DO people lie? It’s funny, I was told when I was a child that I was a bad liar so I have avoided lying as much as possible ever since!

  12. This is a very good article, Balroop. People do lie and, with kind people, often it is to protect other people as you say above. The manipulators of the world use lies to improve their situation in life and often trample over others. I do believe it is a part of human nature.

  13. I wonder how old is this trick? Most people lie to get the work done or to appear nice. All of us may have different reasons and we may have done it at some point in time (in our lives).

    1. A good thought arv…this must be as old as humanity, I presume. Lying culture is now embedded in human DNA and is even accepted! What matters is bad lying and good, smart lying or stupid!

  14. I am a horrible liar, so I rarely even try to do so. It makes me extremely uncomfortable. Some would say to soften certain things for the sake of someone else’s feelings, but I believe there’s a way to be honest and not overly critical.

  15. Unfortunately, we have almost become desensitized to lies — telling them and the consequences of them. But, like most unhealthy habits, lies will only ever cause more harm. Even the supposedly innocent “white” lie is still just that — a lie.

    1. I agree with your observations Vashti, Thanks for sharing…modern man doesn’t care for age-old virtues. I wonder what we are handing over to the next generation!

  16. Dear Balroop what a wonderful post that covers about every aspect I can think of as to why people lie.. I know once told the truth to my father about my mother, who had said something.. I was hit about the head and told it was a lie by my mother.. My father backed up my mother by believing her over me..
    I think you are so right, we are taught through fear to lie from an early age,, I learnt then to either keep silent or continue to lie when asked certain questions for fear of being punished..
    I came across many liars during my working life.. All would want to belittle others to make themselves look better..
    So many people do not even look upon it as lies as they exaggerate everything out of proportion making things bigger than they are.. Twisting the Truth.. ( something I know my mother did often ) which often resulted in our punishment ..
    I often look back on her own lies and ponder upon her own insecurities and why she felt the need to lie and twist the truth as she did..
    We have all been guilty of it in one form or another I am sure..
    But one thing I know, we have to have a good memory to be good liars and those lies will usually always find us out.. 🙂
    A great thought provoking post Balroop..
    Thank you for your wisdom..
    LOVE and Hugs my friend ❤

    1. Aww…dear Sue, your hurts are reaching me! As children we don’t know that some lies need to be covered up even though they may be bothering us. That is probably the first indirect lesson we get in when to hide the truth and nod our heads with the unbelievable lies but it is a very crude way of conveying, a shocking revelation of the real world we have to face! I could never remain silent and therefore had to suffer many times even at my work place. 🙂
      Thank you for sharing the painful truths of life dear friend. Have a nice weekend.

      1. My daughter and I this morning were only discussing this topic.. She speaks the truth, and it may cause a few ouche’s here and there, But as she said to me this morning, I no longer wish to pretend something is right when its not. We had a good laugh at how we change our perceptions and alter our selves when we wake up to conditioning and become ‘In-tune- with ourselves..
        Many thanks for ‘Feeling’ Balroop.. and for Seeing and Understanding the realities of growing.. ❤

  17. I remember clearly my daddy saying, “Kim, if you lie, you must remember your lies & it’s hard to do that…but if you tell the truth, you don’t need to remember anything but the truth.”


    Liars must keep notebooks to keep track of their horrid lies! x

  18. Balroop, a superb study about lies and the reasons behind them! I fear to some lies are so entrenched they take on their own reality! Personally I have had great problems even with ‘white lies’ eg, the outfits looks great ones … and always told the truth, Ie. That top looks dreadful! Not very diplomatic and doesn’t always win you friends! Now I try to censure my words, suggest alternatives. It’s sad how children are punished for telling the truth … quickly learning lies are the best and safest option for them. A hard habit to break!

    1. I have always needed a diploma in diplomacy and tact…never could bring myself to that level! I have suffered a lot due to my truthfulness yet couldn’t learn to pay fake compliments. I remember some hurts of childhood very clearly… when friends say something but don’t stand by their words…my first lessons of the way people behave! Slowly I learnt that it is the way of the world. Thanks for your insights Annika, have a nice weekend.

  19. Oh, you get it all in here, Balroop, the good and the bad of telling a lie. My mom always taught me the difference of telling a lie (bad) and telling a fib once in awhile (so as not to hurt someone’s feelings). I’ve always thought the difference is quite real. And I believe lies told to hurt people, to gain power, to deflect from themselves, or even out of fear, are wrong.

    1. You seem to have been groomed well Pam…I would like to put it in a different way – some truths need to be concealed with a smile or silence. Thanks for standing by to share your thoughts.

  20. Quite an insightful post, Balroop, on one of the basic human traits. The reasons that you have listed out for lying ring so true!
    I sometimes wonder why we are taught not to lie in the childhood when lying is ingrained in human behaviour.
    Some people have no qualms about lying while some people feel uneasy when they have to lie. The degree of difficulty associated with different types of lies also varies. Some lies like ‘caught up in the traffic’ are easy to come by while others are so difficult to utter. Also as you have mentioned some lies are harmless, some are manipulative while some are helpful too. Though it is easy to say things as they are it is not always easy for people to accept things that they are not prepared to. This situation also requires that we sometimes lie to give some buffer time or leeway to others before they are prepared to accept the facts.

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