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Why Do People Lie?

An Honest Opinion


The title may be somewhat misleading and generalized. It may be more fitting to speak from a personal experience, addressing where it is that I have found myself spinning lies throughout life, from the little lies here to the bigger lies.

By the time I was able to string basic sentences together, I became aware of my natural predisposition for talking, being, a lot. Whether my life is like the story of the Greek hunter Narcissus, and I was in love with my own voice or not, I quickly learnt that I could do many things with my words.

It is undeniably true that our voices can lead an entire nation forward or to be used as an efficient weapon to cut down anything that opposes us. The actions we choose to make with our voice, comes with a great responsibility. I do not talk boastfully or regretfully of the times in which my voice has led me to outcomes that may have looked vastly different, given that I hadn't cleverly played with my words to alter how events unfolded. But, before I dive into answering through my own experience, why people lie, allow me to provide some potentially relevant information.

Recently, in my passion for understanding more about people, how they operate, how they communicate, how they interact, etc. I have invested myself in reading The Definitive Book of Body Language by Barbara Pease (seriously, if you haven't read it, do yo' self a favour), and juxtaposed it to understanding spoken communication. I have learnt much about the subtleties in body language. If I were to summarise spoken communication versus the physical/chemical/non-verbal communication, in the simplest manner, non-verbal communication is a raw expression of our emotions and feelings. Non-verbal communication carries a truth in how an individual may feel, at times, more than their spoken words. On the other side of the pendulum, verbal communication, carries our intentions, our desired message we wish to give out, it gives us the ability to decide what information we display.

The other difference between the two means of communication is the versatility in the verbal spoken words. If a CEO speaks to a large board of members, or a celebrity appears in front of millions of viewers at the Grammy's, what they say will be their predominant means of communicating. So, if an individual can master their use of words, a "silver-tongue," with absolute control of the information their body presents, one can present themselves in almost any way their mind pleases.

Getting down to the personal, let me speak on behalf of myself. Around the age of five or six, I believe I became actively aware of the difference of telling the truth and lying. Perhaps it might have been earlier but would rather call it as it is. Like the origins of a superhero, I had to wrestle with this responsibility, and often found myself paying the price for lying, and other times, receiving small praise for telling the truth. Although, it was never quite that black and white. To contrast this, there would be times where I would take matters into my own hands, reaping the splendorous rewards of instant gratification from lying or self-pitying myself when telling the truth and receiving it's consequence.

More recently, I found myself in some real-life instances where I was aware that I could gain control, and manipulate the situation to my benefit. As a general rule, I don’t think it’s in my nature to be sly, malicious, or be a negative member of society. Though at times I have found myself using my ability to weave "nifty" stories and fabrications of the truth to dodge fines from public transport officers, to have price reductions on products I conveniently found in a "poorly presented matter" in shops, to ultimately benefit me regardless of the moral question involved. You can imagine the power that goes to the head. I'll be honest, it's hard not to let the pride really sink in, when you know you’ve "played the system."

So often the issue lies in the subtleties that is inherent in the power of spoken word. This is where things become both scary and dangerous. When decisions we make, words we use, become an innate, nearly unconscious choice, we can become unaware of the impact we may be having on ourselves and the individuals involved.

I have barely answered the question, I shall stop digressing. I believe the reason people lie boils down to an element of control. Telling the truth exposes a person, a matter at hand, a story or information for what it really is. Whereas when a person lies, they have decided to deliver their own interpretation of the truth with clear intentions to deceive or mislead. I found myself over the years becoming an almost chronic liar, not for malicious intent, but because by manipulating the information, I gained a sense of control. Even the simplest of small, little lies, allowed me to feel a sense of security. So often I found myself telling white lies about minor details in stories or when relaying information to another individual, giving me the freedom to project whatever suited me. I often imagine a conductor of an orchestra when I think of an individual that lies for their own self gain; directing the flow of information, steering attention, and controlling where the "music" goes.

In the last few months, after having some seriously good friends surrounded and supported me in my journey, I learnt much about my inclination to lie. I was reassured that I did not do so for malicious intent, not for destructive purposes, or manipulate those around me, but in turn to try and provide security for myself, and to feel as if I was in control all the time. Until I was willing to surrender that false, fleeting sense of control, I was continuously going to repeat that negative cycle of lying.

I believe people need to be aware of the gift that our voices are. In today's age, the ability to speak and represent ourselves or what we stand for, is pivotal in our capacity to move forward as a species. My challenge to any person finding themselves reading this, is to be conscious of what you are capable to do with your words, to consider the impact we have, and whilst it may sound like a regurgitated message that may be presented in a high school assembly—choose to bring life into our lives and that of those around us. I do not speak from a self-righteous position, rather, an individual who also willingly must choose every day to make the best of my words.

Until next time, peace!

Read next: It's a Process
Ari Chesterman
Ari Chesterman

Born in Australia but raised within the four walls known as home; where I began the journey of experiencing life. 21, aspiring future psychologist, an intuitive-empath, not an optimist, but always a hopeful realist. 

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Why Do People Lie?
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