Why we are all liars and consistently tell mistruths

Presidents do it, judges do it and even cardinals do it.

We humans have a propensity to lie when caught doing the wrong thing. US president, Bill Clinton, lied about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Australian judge, Marcus Einfeld, claimed he was not the driver of a car which was speeding. Catholic cardinal, George Pell, denied he abused two choirboys.

When caught red-handed, businesses also attempt to lie their way out of trouble. Boeing initially defended the reliability of its 737 MAX aircraft after two of its jets crashed. Volkswagen initially covered up the emissions scandal but eventually confessed to its misdemeanours. BP initially hid the size of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico before revealing the full environmental impact.

The truth about lying is that we all do it – and not just when we are in hot water. Research reveals that the average person lies at least once a day. Some lies are harmless little fibs while others represent serious whopping deceit. It would be a rare individual indeed who could honestly claim that he/she is always completely truthful.

Just about everyone you know tells low-stakes lies. These lies lack malicious intent and are trivial white lies like saying “I’m fine” to a colleague when you are actually having a terrible day. White lies are said to be justifiable when they are told out of kindness to spare another’s feelings. That’s why many of us would not respond truthfully if a friend asked us if he/she was overweight.

Some people tell lies which are a tad more deceitful. They call in sick when they are well. They say they will be in touch when they have no intention of doing so. They tell a romantic partner they love them when they don’t. They exaggerate their accomplishments during a job interview. Whether these lies are an innocent part of everyday interactions is subject to debate.

When it comes to high-stakes lies, it’s clear that these are not garden-variety falsehoods. There’s a big difference between a person who tells an occasional porky and someone who is a compulsive liar. Such crafty and seasoned deceivers misrepresent the truth to hide a mistake, deliberately hurt others or secure personal gain.

The rogues’ gallery of bald-faced liars includes politicians who daily twist the truth, fudge the numbers and manipulate the facts. While dishonesty in politics is nothing new, Donald Trump’s litany of blatant lies and smears have put him in a league of his own. An article in The Guardian on 30 April 2019 titled Lies, damned lies and Donald Trump stated that Trump undeniably:

… has just become one of the most prolific liars in the history of American governance, passing the 10,000th lie of his administration this week – meaning an average of almost 17 lies a day over 604 days. Not all of his lies were created equally. Some have been harmless … (while) others are downright horrifying and dangerous, about serious issues such as immigration and abortion.

Trump is a compulsive liar with a penchant for false and outrageous utterances which take the form of exaggeration, omission, distortion, accusation, conspiracy and outright doozies. Some believe that he is a deranged lunatic who has a tenuous grip on reality. His reality consists of “alternative facts” and many believe that his alternative view of the world is pathological.

Bizarrely, Trump’s invented facts do not faze his supporters who simply shrug off his lies or turn a blind eye. It seems that no evidence to the contrary can shake their faith in the president – even when his false claims are debunked by credible sources. According to conventional wisdom, there is supposed to be a penalty for lying, but in the president’s case, his lies trump the truth!

Humans are hardwired to lie – it’s part of our DNA – which is why fibbing comes naturally. Our capacity for dishonesty is an innate skill which has been enhanced by social media platforms such as Facebook. Deception in the digital age is rife with online lying giving rise to fake news. Many social media users deliberately fabricate things about their lives to project a more desirable image.

It’s difficult to separate fact from fiction when online users post made-up or exaggerated stories in order to secure likes, comments and followers. It’s not uncommon for people on Internet dating sites to lie about their looks, height and weight. And the pressure to project a cool online persona drives some to use photo apps, like Instagram, to make their pictures more flattering.

Like every other human on this Earth, I’ve told my fair share of mistruths. I deliberately lied to my children when they were toddlers by telling them that there was a Santa Clause, Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy. I now tell the same lies to my grandchildren in order to bring some happy and harmless make-believe into their lives and make no apology for that.

I also do not apologise for the other mundane white lies that I have told in my life. I understand that there are times when a situation demands that you be a straight-shooter. However, if I am able to sugar-coat something in order to spare someone’s feelings, I will do so. Therefore, I will continue “cooing” over every new born baby even if the occasional infant is dead ugly!

Of course, some lies are not acceptable and should fall into the forbidden basket. These cover lies which are told with malicious intent to benefit the liar or hurt another. This self-serving category of deception is never justified and is populated by con artists, cheats, fraudsters and scammers who constantly lie through their teeth.

I put a premium on being truthful. However, committing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth every second of every day is not plausible. Dishonesty is not my calling card, nor should it be yours. But white lies oil the wheels of human interaction, protect us from the harsh unvarnished truth and help make life smoother.

And that, Pinocchio, is the God damn truth!


Paul J. Thomas
Chief Executive Officer
Ductus Consulting



13 Replies to “Why we are all liars and consistently tell mistruths”

  1. The Unvarnished Truth! Enjoyed it very much. Put a smile on my face at times but important topic discussed. Thanks

    1. Hi Paul,
      We are very glad to have you back.
      I enjoy reading your blogs which
      are informative, well written and humorous. We look forward to your
      next written words.

  2. I can remember when you were my Cuscal Account Manager – were all the great things you told me about Cuscal true or did you have your fingers crossed behind your back cheers Graham

  3. This blog would be, in my opinion, in the top 10 blogs you’ve written.
    It is SUPERB in its accuracy and presentation. 10/10

  4. So glad to see that you will be blogging again! I look forward to what you have to share, I t’s always a good reading.

  5. Good to have you back in the blogosphere Paul.
    I like the factual nature of your topic told in your usual humour style!.

    Thank you!

  6. Paul, your verve and vigour remain undiminished! Congratulations on your new blog.
    Question for you: In the corporate world it seems almost fatal for Person A to have to call Person B out for lying. But the liar – Person B escapes unscathed.
    What is your take on this? Your answer may derive from the Trump phenomenon that you so aptly describe ……

    1. Dear Anonymous
      I published a blog in May 2017 titled Whistleblower Backlash. I talked about the fear of reprisal and stated that “dissidents who report misconduct typically face negative repercussions”. I also quoted the 18th century Irish philosopher, Edmund Burke, who said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. Hope this helps. Paul

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