- (Photo: Reuters/Darren Staples)
It is true. Most every person in the world has told a lie at one time or another. Maybe it was just a little “white lie” or possibly just an omission of the truth. No matter what the definition, lying is an issue worth examining, as many people believe it is a bigger problem today than it has ever been.
Most will agree that a lie is a deception of some kind and includes the range of means whereby people may be mislead.
Lying has been described as one of the most fundamental human activities that remains a flaw in our society.
There are frauds, fakes, omissions, and illusions dating back to the beginning of time. Never mind that the cultural and legal connotations of fraud and deceit are more evident from Descartes to the Clinton impeachment, but there are also attempts to model deception in the media and the political arena.
In the Bible, God tells us that he hates a “lying tongue” and defines a lie as “an intentional violation of the truth.”
Throughout the Bible there are hundreds of references to dishonesty, deceit, and false or misleading representations. Let us not forget one of the Ten Commandments says “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”
So, most of us know full well that lying is wrong.
Why do we do it?
Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, says everybody lies for one reason or another.
“We start lying at around age four and five when children gain an awareness of the use and power of language,” Saltz said. “This first lying is not malicious, but rather to find out, or test, what can manipulated in a child’s environment.”
She said lying then becomes a process leading to children using a lie to get out of trouble or get something they want.
Saltz said the bottom line is that a person who feels compelled to lie about both the small and large stuff has a problem. The consistent liar or “pathological liars” will lie at the drop of a hat. They do it to protect themselves, look good, gain financially or socially and avoid punishment.
“A much more troubling group is those who lie a lot, and knowingly. for personal gain,” she said.
“These people may have a diagnosis called antisocial personality disorder, also known as being a sociopath, and often get into scrapes with the law.”
What happens when we lie?
Those who tell the occasional lie or omit the truth find out that lying often gets worse with the passage of time.
It is a serious problem in today's society because our word does not mean what it used to mean. When a person lies, they have broken a bond with others around them.
Back in the day, people used to conduct huge business deals and close it with a gentleman's handshake. Their word was their bond.
But, serious deception exists today and often makes it impossible for us to trust another person again. Because the issue of trust is on the line, coming clean about the lie as soon as possible is the best way to mend fences.
"If the truth only comes out once it is forced, repair of trust is far less likely," Saltz said.
There is an ethical explanation about lying and is now being instructed as a university level class on ethics.
Tim C. Mazur of the Ethics and Compliance Officer Association says lies are morally wrong for two reasons.
"Lies flourish in social uncertainty, when people no longer understand, or agree on, the rules governing their behavior toward one another,” he said.
First, Mazur points out, is that lying corrupts the most important quality of a human being, which means it effects the ability to make free, rational choices.
Each lie contradicts the part of someone that gives them moral worth.
Second, lies rob others of their freedom to choose rationally.
Mazur said when a lie leads people to decide other than they would had they known the truth, the lies have harmed their human dignity and autonomy.
"As trust declines, cynicism spreads, and our overall quality of life drops,” he said.
“People may lie in pursuit of the greater good, but this can lead to a "slippery slope," where the line between cleverly calculated moral justifications and empty excuses for selfish behavior is exceedingly thin. Sliding down the slope eventually kindles morally bankrupt statements .”
How do you know if someone is lying?
There are ways to detect whether a person is lying or telling the truth.
Police, forensic psychologists, security experts and other investigators often use deception detection techniques to determine if they are on the right track in an investigation.
There are gestures and verbal cues that may indicate someone is being untruthful.
First, a person who is lying will avoid making eye contact. Experts say someone who is in the midst of telling a lie will also position their hands touching their face, throat and mouth. Touching or scratching the nose or behind their ear are also signs of dishonesty.
They are not likely to touch his chest or heart with an open hand if they are telling the truth.
A guilty person gets defensive during a conversation and if they are accused of lying. An innocent person will often go on the offensive.
A statement with a contraction is more likely to be truthful: “I didn't do it” instead of “I did not do it."
Eyes are also a big give away when it comes to lying. Studies show that if a person looks up and to the left then they are thinking about the question and constructing a lie. So, looking to the left constitutes a made-up answer.
Experts say that making statements that just don’t hold together will make someone appear to be a generally suspicious person.
If someone lies all the time, even about unimportant things, they are likely to have a problem that will eventually cause relationship, financial or legal troubles.
“Figuring out what is driving you to lie in the first place will help heal this self-destructive behavior,” Saltz said.
“This may mean going into treatment with a therapist to discover why you feel the need to deceive.”
How to stop lying:
Dishonesty has become so commonplace in politics, in business, and in the world in general that it seems downright normal. Studies confirm that people know instinctively that they should tell the truth.
We certainly expect it from others, knowing that the world can't function if no one is trustworthy.
Lies rob a person of all godly virtues. It comes as harmless yet its effects can be most devastating.
Christians believe that a person should not swear or tell a lie. But even the best people are tempted to tell a lie. Society must remember that a person's word must be their bond during family, business and personal times in life.
Lying is much harder than telling the truth and a person should hold the desire to be a trust worthy advocate for friends, family, and business partners.
No matter how hard it is to start- lay your foundation on the truth.
Many have laid the foundation of their lives on lies. Sooner or later that foundation will crumble. If you gained admission into a higher institution through forged certificates, repent, restitute and start all over again.
If you told a friend a lie, call them and tell them what you did and start the healing process.
All "official" lies must stop. Sign correct time of arrival. Stop lying about number of children just to reduce tax deductions. Go and apologize to those you have lied to or against.
Nobody cannot afford to miss the blessings God gives us when we are honest and trustworthy in all we do.
Here are a few Bible references dealing with the truth:
"Do not testify falsely against your neighbor."
"The LORD hates cheating, but he delights in honesty."
"Truth stands the test of time; lies are soon exposed."
"Telling lies about others is as harmful as hitting them with an ax, wounding them with a sword, or shooting them with a sharp arrow."
"Though everyone else in the world is a liar, God is true."
"People with integrity have firm footing, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall."
"The godly person gives wise advice, but the tongue that deceives will be cut off."
Proverbs 10:9, 31
"Don't lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old evil nature and all its wicked deeds."