4 Reasons Why People Lie To You

I haven’t always been an honest person.

We all have survival tactics in life, and as a child and teenager, my survival tactic was to duck, dodge, evade, and often to flat-out lie.

The truth is, I didn’t trust the truth.

I had some pretty compelling reasons not to trust the truth, but I won’t go into that here. I will say only this: it often felt safer to run in the other direction of honesty. So I got in the habit of being dishonest, or at least being partially honest.

As a young adult, my mistruths became so complex that they often reached deep into myself — meaning: I never lied to anyone more than I lied to ME.

Being dishonest often got me out of trouble in the heat of the moment, but it usually led to bigger trouble in the long run. In fact, it pretty much always did. Eventually I figured that out — but only after my lies turned into troubles that routinely exploded into disasters.

It seemed like maybe it was time to learn how to tell the truth.

So I became a student of the truth, because it was fascinating and foreign to me. I wanted to learn all I could about it, and I’ve tried to live within it as much as possible.

The truth still sometimes evades me and it often scares me.

I still sometimes catch myself dodging the truth (or reflexively wishing to dodge it) in order to ‘protect’ others or myself.

I still sometimes tell a dumb or cowardly lie, and then later think, “Why did you do that, Linda?” But I do it less and less.

Over time, I’ve grown to admire and love the truth. I have certainly come to respect its power. These days, I have trained myself to try to be as honest as I can. Even when it’s terrifying.

Today I want to share with you the four most compelling things I have learned about the truth.


Can we all handle it?

Here it goes:

The trickiest thing I’ve ever heard about the truth:

  • Aristotle said that the highest virtue was neither honesty nor courage, but discernment — the ability to judge in in each and every circumstance which virtue is best put to use.
  • In other words, truth is not always simple, and it’s not always a monolith.
  • The person of discernment knows how to choose the virtuous path, even when it means sometimes being dishonest. Which makes life really, really complicated sometimes. But discernment is the ability to weed through all those complications and try to choose the best possible course.

The funniest thing I’ve ever learned about the truth:

The reason most of us turn into liars is because of the mixed messages our parents send us when we are young. Take my mother, for instance — she DEMANDED the truth, but she couldn’t DEAL wit’ it! So I learned how to lie to her. And that’s how it started.”

The most pragmatic thing I’ve ever learned about the truth:

The truth has legs. In the end, it will be the only thing left standing. Everything else will eventually fall away, but the truth will still be standing there. That’s inevitable. So the sooner you can get to the truth, the better — because it’s going to be revealed eventually, anyhow. I can’t tell you how many times this idea has guided me through difficult conversations and painful confrontations.

The most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever learned about the truth:

  • From David Foster Wallace: “The truth will set you free. But not until it’s had its way with you.”
  • In other words, honesty will often bring consequences. The truth might bring you pain.
  • It might bring you loss. It might feel like it’s beating you up. It might hurt someone you love.
  • But eventually, it is very likely set you free.

Another thing to also bare in mind but that doesn’t quite make the list is, “What are you doing in your life that is making it impossible for people to tell you the truth?”

You need to radically examine yourself, and ask yourself whether you are somebody with whom people can actually be honest.

Or are you so sensitive, so volatile, so fragile, so angry, so vulnerable, or so explosive that people constantly feel they have to lie to you, in order to protect you?

Let me actually rephrase that.

I need to ask myself:

Can people REALLY tell you the truth, Linda?

Are you demanding the truth from people, but then not being able to deal with it?

Can you really handle honesty?

Have you ever said to someone a line like this: “If you ever left me, I would die without you”? — thereby making it impossible for someone to candidly say, “I am no longer happy in this relationship”?

Have you ever said, “If you ever disappointed me, I would never recover”? Have you ever said to a child or friend or lover, “If I ever found out that you had been doing (insert sin here), I would never forgive you”? In other words: Have you been setting up an environment in which the only way people can possibly keep you happy is to lie to you?

I’m not saying that you have. I’m just asking: Have you?


Alright, you guys — that’s all I’ve got on truth.

But those are the four ideas that guide me in my life, as I struggle every day to become both an honest person, and somebody with whom others can be honest.

Curious to hear your thoughts and what you think about telling the truth, any words of advice ……

Originally published at asklychee.com on March 16, 2016.