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Why we lie

Updated on April 4, 2011

The concept of telling the truth is a topic which could be discussed infinitum. There are many good reasons for telling the truth. Conversely there are many good reasons why we lie. We learn to lie at a very early age, according to Australian Psychologist Doctor Dorothy Rowe.  Rowe has studied the concept of lies extensively.  As well as working with her clients she has researched and has written a book called 'Why We Lie'.

Rowe believes that often we learn to lie to our parents at a very young age. As young  as the early age of three. One of the reason that children as young as three learn to lie is to please the people they are directly and absolutely dependent on. Parents and as such  find the need to please them in order to gain favour, be loved, be fed and so on. Children so young of course are still at the very early stages in learning development.  Acceptable behaviour is being processed and  discovered.   So many things yet to learn in life and for some reason adults expect the young child to be so logical so early.  Many things that to an adult seem ordinary and common sense. Rather than understanding a child through the innocent eyes that are the child's they superimpose an adults view of the world on them

Every day we may lie unconsciously or because it suits us. for instance when we say to some one how are you? and the response is I'm fine thanks nearly every time. Is the interaction really honest. For one do we really care how a person is or not and in response do we always give an honest answer to the question by saying I'm fine thanks when the real answer is well Ive had a lousy day so far nothing has gone right and so on and so forth. One explanation may be we want to quickly get onto a further topic because time is short for instance.

Next the topic of giving compliments.  Rowe does not advocate not giving people compliments; To the contrary we need to do it more often. But we should only do it when we are genuine in doing so. Doing it to meet our own deeper needs displays 'bad faith' and may come back to bite us.

A study, published in the Journal of Basic and Applied Psychology, found that 60 percent of people had lied at least once during the 10-minute conversation, saying an average of 2.92 inaccurate things. This goes to the need of wanting to be accepted and fearing a reduction of self esteem. Or rather our self esteem is so low that we feel the need to exaggerate facts that surround us in order to make our pitch more socially acceptable and reduce the risk of scorn or ridicule. Even though such fear may be totally unfounded.

Similarly when we give a compliment to someone when it's not warranted or the claim is exaggerated we should examine why we do this. Do we do it so we are liked more or do we genuinely do it in order to make the person feel justifiable better about themselves. Rowe discovered that often there are many ulterior motives for our actions and words with others.

In order to make peace with ourselves in order to display more integrity we should as a matter of course become more conscious of what we say and do and keep it aligned with what is straight and true.  That way we can reduce the amount of anxiety and fear we experience and develop a better more authentic sense of self.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      When I think back to my history of the 'art of lying', it all stemmed from my parents as a young child. They both made up things that were not true (and us kids knew better) and told us to "be quiet, this is an adult thing". We quickly learned that there more often than not were no consequences to the LIES and there was obviously some value in telling them. Then when I got older I lied to get exactly what I wanted, when I wanted it and most of the time it worked.Of course, that set the stage for the journey of lies that makes up more of my life than the truth does, which is a tragedy and I am well aware of that.It is a habitual, control feature to this day that I know I do but that I just can't stop by my own free will.Everything is a calculated risk and choice, it is just that my approach is a little more 'calculating'.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Well done, Barry. Very interesting topic, and for those of us interested in preserving our integrity, very thought provoking. I shared on Facebook and Twitter.

    • halola1999 profile image


      7 years ago from cairo

      why we lie? i really asked my self this question alot of times and i couldnnt find out y? or i found millions of reasons. and i was really confused' but now i think no more confusing after reading this awsome hub. thanks for sharing those info.

    • howcurecancer profile image


      7 years ago

      Interesting hub.

    • smcopywrite profile image


      7 years ago from all over the web

      wonderful information and nicely presented. great hub.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Loved the topic. Well written - I voted it up. I agree with Rowe. It's a survival tactic.

      One thing I know for sure--I don't lie.

      There-you see what I did? I just lied! LOL.

    • salt profile image


      7 years ago from australia

      Thankyou it is a good topic,I was processing how we can lie to protect ourselves, for reasons to hurt others and how there are different ways of perceiving the truth.

      I was wanting to work out if I am a fibber or not and what moralistic right do I have to my truth?

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      7 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Earth Angel asusual you make a great contribution to my hubs ! Thanks for the points that you raised. Much appreciated. Well Done.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      7 years ago from USA

      This is a really interesting topic, and a great hub. It's interesting that, while we try to teach our children not to lie, we do it ourselves every day ("I'm fine, thanks"). There are so many reasons why we lie, not the least of which is that we really don't want to get into a conversation about our real feelings. The right and wrong of lying could be a very interesting discussion...

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 

      7 years ago

      GREAT topic and GREAT Hub Barry!

      Thank you for sharing! This is a topic close to my heart!

      Thank you also for the statistic, "A study, published in the Journal of Basic and Applied Psychology, found that 60 percent of people had lied at least once during the 10-minute conversation, saying an average of 2.92 inaccurate things."

      This fact is one of the things that motivates me to try and turn the tide in the other direction!

      Most often, there is no legitimate reason to lie; it's just laziness! We want to "gain" someone's approval, so instead of earning it which takes time and energy and consciousness, we fake it!

      Lying is also an attempt to control another! I make decisions about how to spend my time, energy, resources, etc. based on the facts I have at the time!

      Example: I am very outspoken about donating to many charities that are able to keep their overhead under 10%! Someone looking for donations tells me their charity keeps their overhead under 10%! In reality that charity is top-heavy with overhead of 39%!

      To the person asking for the donation, they may think they are doing something "good" for the cause; to me, they are lying to control my behavior - i.e. write them a check under false pretense!

      This has become far too socially acceptable! We are asleep at the wheel and need to wake up! Not only does it erode our own self-esteems when we lie, it is eroding the fabric of society!

      Thank you for bringing this GREAT topic to the forefront of our attention! You are the best!

      Blessings always, EarthAngel!


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