ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Institutionalization of Lying

Updated on February 13, 2020
You face choices about whether or not to lie on a daily basis. Although you may not like lies, they are a vital part of many professions.
You face choices about whether or not to lie on a daily basis. Although you may not like lies, they are a vital part of many professions.

Lies are nothing new

History is a set of lies agreed upon.”-Napoleon Bonaparte

If lying isn't good, why is there so much of it?

Lying is one of those behaviors that most cultures, religions and societies have rules against. In some situations it's even considered a crime to lie to certain officials. The US government even has laws about lying to federal officials.

Although lying is considered a crime, there are some strange double standards associated with lying. Although it's a crime to lie to government officials, it is not considered a crime for the government officials to lie to you. They may not claim it's lying but instead misrepresentation or partial disclosures.

Whether the government official is a police officer, judge, federal agent, politician or bureaucrat, telling them lies often carries criminal penalties and consequences. Although those consequences apply to you, those same rules do not apply to them.

In situations where the government officials are conducting an investigation, they have no problem lying to you. If you are brought in for questioning, they may lie about what they know, or what others have told them.

They may even lie about what evidence they have in their possession. No matter how many lies they tell you, their behavior is not considered criminal or wrong, since they consider obtaining information worth any kind of moral wrong they have done in obtaining it.

When you advance up the level of government, the lies are larger. When you are being questioned about the official, they may make threats or hide things from you, but in the eyes of the judicial system, they have done nothing wrong. They consider the ‘greater good’ that they are after far outweighs any lie they may have told you along the way.

Politicians and government agencies are known for their lying. As a culture, you may have grown accustomed to accepting such lying behavior. The politicians often make many promises, both literal and implied when running for office.

Once elected, they change their official position. You may find yourself dismissing such lies as ‘politics as usual’. The reality is that lies are lies, no matter who tells them.

You may encounter lies at government agencies. Lies are often a part of policy. When you are an employee of those agencies, you are trained to follow policy and tell the public what the ‘approved’ communication is.

Even though you know it to be a lie, you may rationalize what you did as just ‘following policy’. The Nazi war criminals had the same attitude when they were on trial at Nuremburg, claiming that they were just ‘following orders’. Whether you are following orders or following policy, the lies remain. When you lie, you make someone believe something that is not true.

Government agencies which deal with secrets often tell lies in the name of ‘national security’. In their minds, protecting the security of the nation means more than violating their own conscience.

By saying that their lies are a matter of national security, you may somehow feel better about the lies or deception. This way you feel like you deserve a medal for lying, even though you know that the lie was intentionally misleading.

It is not just government officials that engage in lying as a course of business. There are many professionals that lie as a routine part of business. The legal profession is known for the many lies they tell in their course of business.

Lawyers often hide their lying behind claims that they are seeing to it that their clients receive the best defense that money can buy. It is not just the defense attorneys that lie.

There are times that prosecutors intentionally make outlandish statements, knowing that those statements are lies, all in the name of either obtaining convictions or improving their court room record. They also know that when the defendant reacts defensively or attempts countering the outlandish statement, that they look guilty.

The mindset with many in the legal profession is that any statement can be made, it is up to the other side to either prove or disprove it. When such a mindset sinks in, the lying becomes institutionalized. Lies are no longer viewed as lies, they are ‘unproven’ statements.

The public often allows the lies to continue since they are more interested in obtaining results rather than their lawyer being honest in their dealings.

Some health care professionals have also been known to lie as part of doing business. Whether it is hiding the seriousness of a health issue, or not letting the patient know everything that is going on, such actions are deceptive.

The information may be the results of a test, or examination. The test results may be kept from the patient in order to keep them from getting upset. The patient then makes choices based on lies, whether intentional or implied.

Those in the health care field often excuse their lies based on “what their lawyer told them to say” or “what is in the best interest of the hospital, practice, insurance company, etc.” Since those in the health care field are viewed as being helpers to you, the lies are often excused, based on their good intentions. You may allow them a free ride when it comes to lies, since they are there to help you or your family member.

Some big businesses and banks also engage in lying as part of doing business as well. Claims are made about their product or services that are just not true. In business, the professionals often use confusing terms that leave you believing something that is not so.

Whether it be interest rates, the promise of a new product or the effectiveness of a product, lies are often told in the form of allowing the public to believe something that they imagine.

Although the teaching profession often positions itself as being on the moral high ground, there are some instructors who routinely engage in lying. They may lie about their sources, the validity of what they are presenting or some other aspect of what they are teaching.

Although you may want to think of teachers as being right, in many cases, they are wrong, whether intentionally or unintentionally. In the cases of intentional lying, the teachers often present material that is plausible or popular rather than what is factual.

They may be pressured into this deception by the school or college where they teach, in which case, it is a matter of institutional lying. Institutions have been known to put restraints on what teachers can say and present in their classrooms.

Some teachers justify their lying based on loyalty to a political belief or popular ideology. Since they want to be liked and keep their job, it is easier to continue presenting the lies rather than to honestly deal with topics in the classroom.

There are also ethical situations when lies are considered ‘acceptable’. In those situations, a person’s life or well being may be on the line. In such cases, lying is often viewed as acceptable.

When saving lives, such as those who lied about keeping Jews in their homes during World War II, such acts are considered as type of nobility. In such cases, the principle of saving lives is viewed as more important that telling the truth.

Those telling the lies believe that they did the right thing in such situations. Although it is easy to moralize, and claim that you should always tell the truth, there are situations where higher principles need to be considered.

In addressing the topic of lying, it is also important to be honest about how institutionalized that lying has become in many societies. In the examples given above, there are many instances where lying is part of routine business. Although lying is still viewed as morally bad, there are many areas where we often turn a blind eye and allow the lies to continue without bothering to question them.

What do you really think about lying?

What professions should be allowed to lie?

See results

Lies and being 'Authentic'

With the emphasis in society being on coming across as 'authentic' rather than telling the truth, one of the consequences is more lying. By emphasizing authenticity over truthfulness, the focus is on the person coming across as genuine.

They may genuinely believe or tell a lie, yet if they appear sincere, it's valued as 'authentic'. This shift has changed the standards which social behaviors are evaluated.

In this case, authenticity is valued more than 'the truth'. With that shift, if you lie, but do so while being authentic, it's acceptable in many parts of society.

© 2012 Jeff Murrah


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)