Why Do People Lie?

May 6, 2019
People lie for many different reasons. Although sometimes people lie for personal gain, lying can also have altruistic motives. However, there’s a common thread that runs through all lies: fear. Keep reading to find out more.

Why do people lie? You’ve probably asked yourself this question at some point in your life. In general, people lie because they’re afraid of what’ll happen if the truth comes out. They don’t want people to know what they did, what they didn’t do, what they heard, what they said, or what they knew.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, to lie means “to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive”. In other words, lying is the expression or manifestation of the opposite of what you know, believe, or think.

On the other hand, to deceive means “to cause to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid,” or “to make someone believe something that isn’t true”. As you can see, lying is when the content of a message doesn’t adequately reflect reality. The action of deceit includes the key concept of intentionality or willfulness.

Why Do People Lie?

As we said above, people lie because they’re afraid of the consequences of the truth. People lie to blame others, to avoid responsibilities, to hurt other people, or to avoid facing their problems.

You lie when you’re trying to hide something or to avoid the shame you feel about something you did and its consequences. The ironic thing is that the consequences of someone finding out the lie are often worse than the consequences of what actually happened or what you tried to cover up.

Sometimes you lie to gain the upper hand or to get some kind of benefit that you wouldn’t get with the truth. Lies and deceit are basically just tools that you use to get what you want. Often, lies are attempts to control and manipulate other people’s behavior.

A wooden Pinocchio head.

People also lie for other complex and varied reasons. Sometimes you might lie because you’re trying to help someone or make someone feel good. People also lie to make other people happy, as strange as that may seem.

In addition, people lie to avoid hurting others or to avoid personal or family conflicts. Lies can help plans and projects continue on their course. It’s also common for people to lie so that their family and friends don’t find out about something negative about them or something that could cause problems.

There’s often a real, palpable fear that your family, friends, or allies could suffer due to what you did, so you don’t want to tell them the truth. On the other hand, a lie can be a simple and direct way to protect your privacy.

Fear Usually Hides behind Lies

People who lie are usually afraid of something:

  • Being less important than other people.
  • Not achieving a professional goal.
  • Being less attractive.
  • People not loving, appreciating, or respecting them.
  • Losing something or not getting something they want.

Most of the time, this fear can be justified in the short run, but not in the long run. Over time, it’s hard to keep up with a lie and it becomes less likely that the lie will actually help you achieve your goals. If you want your lie to endure, you often have to make up more lies.

Another important factor is the fear that people feel about being caught lying. Sometimes what leads people to keep lying is that they don’t want anyone to figure out that they are.

“The liar’s punishment is, not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.”

-George Bernard Shaw-

A person crossing their fingers behind their back.

All of us worry, to some degree, about what other people think about us. Everyone wants to make a good impression. If you want to save face at any cost, you might lie so that people think good things about you. As you can see, humans lie for many different reasons. Nevertheless, behind every lie hides the fear of the consequences we hope to avoid.