People are telling the truth when they tell you they don’t lie. That’s because they honestly believe they don’t. But they do. We all do. We all do it all day long. We either lie or we spread someone else’s mistruths. We do this selfishly, although it’s a sweet kind of selfish where all we really want is to be part of the group. And since ‘the group’ values information, we want to have valuable information. That’s why secrets are the most valuable to a group —because so few people know them.
Of course, it’s the ‘secret’ part that has the value, so a fake secret is just as good as a real one. Also, people will exaggerate to generate excitement, which is a subtle form of attention. These are all forms of staying in the group. So that often means, hardly any teenage boys have a secret buddy who’s average at things. Every teenage boy knows the best mechanic, the best martial artist and the most amazing computer hacker in the world.
Then of course there’s manipulative lying, where people are sharing mistruths in an attempt to influence the person they’re speaking with. Since everyone naturally wants to be a part of the tribe, and the tribe is where everyone is, then if the friend we’re talking to doesn’t like someone, then it’ll be on their agenda to get us not to like that other person too. Because otherwise the other person might join us, and we could form our own group and exclude the friend.
It’s like the Peter Gabriel lyric, “How can we be ‘in’ if there is no ‘outside?'” Humans like to be involved. We like to be in situations where lots of fellow tribesmen are affirming our inclusion, which is why popularity and fame are so appealing. We just want to belong and we’ll tell any story that will help us. And importantly, that includes actively hiding our weaknesses.
There’s a video I recently saw on the web of a couple in a car who are angry at a one ton truck driver for whatever reason. In their attempt to get revenge, they speed up in front of the truck on the highway and then they brake-check him (they suddenly slow down). The truck weighs too much so it’s physically impossible for it to slow down in time, so it smashes into the angry driver’s rear end. It’s revenge gone horribly bad.
Now, the couple in the car is fine, but their car is destroyed and there’s film proving it’s their fault. Now what story do you think that couple will tell their friends?
By the time friends hear that story, all of their culpability will be explained very reasonably, whereas the truck driver will be painted as an even bigger jerk than he may or may not have been. They very genuinely won’t want to own their own mistake because the tribe will judge them. So they will –largely subconsciously — construct a version of events that keeps them in the tribe.
That story will have them as ‘victims’ and not as ‘assholes.’ But no matter how you slice it, if you brake-check a truck you’re not only lacking in an understanding of physics, but you’re also not a victim. You went out and aggressively sought your accident. But when have you ever heard that story?
We almost never hear the story where a person admits full fault and takes responsibility. And it’s rare because we hardly do it. Because we lie instead. So pay attention to the people that will admit that sort of thing. Because that is a very rare, free human being.
I’m not making a judgment call here. I’m not saying people shouldn’t do it. We have emotions for reasons and many times we can’t help but do it. It’s simply a byproduct of who and what we are.
Human ego, language and the natural desire to belong all combine to create this strange world where we tell each other we’ve done work we haven’t done, that we’ve visited gyms we didn’t go to, that we’ve slept with people we didn’t sleep with, and that we like people’s cooking and haircuts even if we don’t. We lie to save face, to save time and to save money. And ironically, we primarily do it to get respect.
If you think you don’t lie you either haven’t paid attention or you’re lying right now. As a little five year old in the hospital, it was the first thing I noticed. All the staff that came into my room lied to all the other staff that came in the room. And they all did it innocently. They didn’t see their lie as a bad thing. They were being socially smooth.
Addicts and cheaters feel genuinely guilty and so they lie and create extra-nice things they’ve done to cushion the dirty secrets they know they’re hiding. People lie to conceal other big mistakes they’ve made as well. They lie so you’ll think they’re smarter, tougher, more experienced, more connected –more more more. They’ll lie so you think more of them. And we do the same thing.
Start to monitor your lies. That’s your ego at work. Watch it manipulate things. Observe your lies and determine their objectives. Don’t judge yourself. Come to understand yourself better. The great part is, not only will you benefit from greater personal understanding, but you’ll also be much more forgiving of the lies you hear from others. And some empathy and compassion is always good for the world.
Have yourself a wonderful day. I really really really do hope you choose to do all you can to make that happen. And I really do mean that. 😉
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.