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Liar Liar
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Liar Liar

Sometimes I ask my grandchildren the question “What do I love more than you?”  Immediately they answer, “The truth”.  I have taught them that if a person doesn’t tell the truth, you don’t really know who they are, and you can’t trust them.

Everyone has been lied to at some point but not all lies are given for the same reason. In fact, there are many reasons why a person might lie including the following:

  1. To avoid consequences – Children don’t lie to get into trouble. They lie to get out of trouble.  It’s the same with some adults.  When someone has done wrong and knows that they will be in serious trouble if they tell the truth, they might try to deceive others with falsehoods.  If you don’t believe this, try sitting in a Courtroom for a few hours and listen to the stories being told to the judge!
  2. Because we have been deceived – We are often influenced by mentors and other individuals who we inaccurately believe are trustworthy. Their words and actions can easily be adopted and repeated without question.  Unfortunately, even those who appear to be experts or sages can and will deceive us at times.
  3. For financial gain – If you have ever played poker, you will know what it means to bluff.  This is pretending that you have a better hand than what you are holding in order to convince the other players that you will win.  This technique is also used by what is termed “confidence or con men” who set up scams to cheat others out of their money.
  4. To protect others – Unfortunately holding the truth from a person might actually cause more harm and negatively affect your relationship. Lies are usually found out and then the liar just looks like a fraud.
  5. For control – Some people use evil tactics to torment others. Think about bullies who say mean things to break down their victims.   Bullies know that they cannot match the goodness of the other person, so they just try to drag them down to their level with abusive words and behaviours.
  6. As a delay tactic – Sometimes a person will lie in order to gain time in which they think that they can work out a better plan. They make promises knowing that they will likely not be able to fulfil them as promised.  They hope that over time others will forget what happened or they will come up with a way to resolve the issues.
  7. To capture a short-term gain – Sometimes a person lies because s/he receives a personal benefit by doing so. For example, the one who can tell the biggest “whopper” might be rewarded with laughter and acceptance by their peers.  Comedians become famous for this tactic.  They tell fibs in a manner that draws the crowd into their fanbase.
  8. Due to Habit – Some people are so used to telling lies that they just do it automatically, even when the lie is obvious. It is interesting to see how often they lie even about insignificant things.   I remember years ago when parents came to see me about their daughter.   They said, “She lies all the time” and I replied, “That’s what liars do”. Often habit will be deeper than a behaviour.  Over time, it becomes a character trait.
  9. Because of conditioned beliefs – Throughout life we learn from the world around us. As we grow older, we often question the things we have been taught as truth.   We might never have actually lied about things but instead just clung to the ideas that we have learned over the years.   I have always said that no matter how dysfunctional a person is, s/he will never change until life doesn’t work for them anymore.  Change involves confronting your conditioned beliefs.
  10. For privacy – When people ask personal questions that you don’t want to answer, you might decide to lie. Beware though because the truth will likely be revealed and then you will not be trusted in the future.
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About the Author

Dr. Hancock has written a regular weekly column entitled “All Psyched Up” for newspapers in two Canadian provinces for more than a dozen years...