Why do some people lie?

One reason is that they don’t trust the receiver. They may be worried about a negative reaction to the truth. That’s an obvious answer but not really the deepest one.

Perhaps a better answer is that a person lies to control the receiver. By withholding the truth and sharing something else instead, you can semi-control people’s responses – or so you might assume. So in that sense, lying is a form of manipulation.

The deeper trust issue could be framed as a lack of trust in reality. When you speak the truth, reality gets to respond to that truth. When you speak a lie, reality has to simulate an acceptable response to the lie.

Lying is a request to avoid reality’s response to truth. It’s a request to hide. It’s a request to delay.

Think of lying as life’s slow motion mode. Lying doesn’t pause time from moving forward, but it can pause some story progressions.

Lying can prevent a breakup from happening. Lying can prevent a person from getting fired. Lying can sustain an addiction, postponing the detox and recovery period.

Lying doesn’t advance the underlying story though, so when lying is present, the story can get stuck for a while.

Reality is still the ultimate arbiter of truth, so reality gets to choose how to respond to lying. Reality may allow the lying to continue for a while, especially if the story is advancing in other areas, but reality has a tendency to bring forth the truth, so it can resolve certain story lines.

Many people in the Catholic Church lied to cover up rampant sexual abuse. Reality eventually nudged that storyline forward, even as Church officials resisted and kept trying to hide.

People will often lie for as long as it seems to work. They keep going down that path till the story is forced to go a different route.

One obstacle to getting past lying is that discontinuing the lies feels like a punishment. Who wants to face a backlash? Who wants to deal with the negativity and judgment? Who wants to deal with the full range of consequences from sharing the truth?

That framing is what keeps many people stuck. Lying is seen as reasonable, and honesty is seen as unreasonably harsh. So of course the lying will continue until reality decides to stop permitting it.

Lying is a way of delegating the decision to advance the story. Instead of deciding for yourself, reality gets to decide for you. So in that sense, you could even say that you’re trusting reality more. You know that you’re stuck, and you’re allowing reality to choose when to burst your bubble and push you back into truth alignment.

Is this really the relationship you want to have with reality though? It’s a child-like way of relating, isn’t it? Instead of making conscious choices for yourself about when and how to advance your story, you’re putting the onus on reality to make those decisions for you. It’s like letting a parent decide what you should wear instead of picking your own clothes. Yes, you could say that letting someone else pick your clothes demonstrates trust, but you could likewise say that it demonstrates immaturity.

If you’re stuck in a habit of lying, and reality isn’t raising the stakes to push you out of that rut, consider that it’s letting you make the call. Reality doesn’t always threaten. Sometimes it waits patiently while you figure out a reasonable approach for yourself.

When you’ve determined that lying is actually reasonable, reality may never burst that bubble. Perhaps you tell polite lies to avoid hurting people’s feelings. If you’re okay with that, you may never have cause to stop telling those kinds of lies. But when you doubt that your approach is actually correct, maybe it’s a good time for the lying to end, and reality is just waiting on you to figure out how you’ll do that.

There are more than just two options: lying and honesty. You’ll see more options when you think about how you’d like to progress your story line. Instead of sticking to the lies, where would you like to go next?

People often lie in corporate environments. They lie when they’re in misaligned social circles. They lie when dealing with bureaucracies. They lie to avoid conflict.

While you could just shift to direct honesty, which may advance your storyline, you could also think about the big picture of why you’re lying and in what situations. If lying is often situational, why are you remaining loyal to those situations?

What would it be like to work at a company where truthfulness was respected and rewarded?

What would it be like to be in a relationship with someone where you could be fully honesty about all your kinky desires because your partner is open to hearing that and exploring with you?

What would it be like if you built a social circle where you feel free to express what you actually think and feel?

Consider that you can progress beyond lying without having to go through a dark destruction phase – if you can identify a meaningful construction phase you’d prefer to experience instead.

You don’t have to overcome an addiction by hitting rock bottom first and having the truth blow up in your face. You could instead discover or create a positive vision of health you’d like to experience instead.

If lying is a misalignment, you can learn to notice when it feels mildly misaligned instead of having to ride it into a crash. You can choose to correct your course when you begin noticing that lying is creeping into the picture instead of after years of deception.

As a final thought, extract the lessons of lying as well. Why’d you do it? What framing got you started down that path? What were your other options? Start by telling the truth to yourself.