The Bible tells us to speak the truth in love, but doing so is a learned skill. You can tell Aunt Hilda, “That purple hair sticking straight out makes you look like a scary Martian.” Or you can speak the truth in love by saying, “Well, I must say I have never seen another hairdo quite like it. It is really unique. How did you get the idea to fix it that way?” Both are truthful, but the latter is also respectful.
People who routinely tell false tales think others do not realize they are lying. The reality, however, is that others usually do know the person is lying; they simply choose not to call him on it.
The saddest fact about lying is that it often hurts other people—in particular the person telling the untruths. Ask most people if their lies have ever come back to haunt them and you’ll get a “yes” every time. So knowing the harm we can wreak on ourselves why do we still do it? Consider the following reasons that people often lie.
People Lie to Impress
Lying to impress others might seem harmless. We have worked with some patients who would never steal or try to hurt someone, but would lie by saying what they think you want to hear. This type of person is so afraid of rejection that lying has become a way of life. In the end, however, this action hurts the person who is lying and the people being lied to.
Often when we try to impress someone, we just end up looking silly. Once people realize we aren’t truthful, everything else we say becomes suspect. The desire to impress others can tempt you to make false statements by bragging and exaggerating. But few people care to hang around someone who’s bent on impressing others. The person who does this is caught up in herself, and no one wants to hang out with someone who talks about herself all the time.
A narcissist is extreme example of this behavior. Narcissists love attention, but they are blind to their own narcissism. They believe they are more spiritual and better looking than they really are. Sometimes they sit in the front row at church and raise their hands at every song, supposedly to bring honor to God, but really (at least unconsciously) to show everyone how super spiritual they are. And at prayer meetings, the narcissist nearly always prays the longest prayers and in the most dramatic fashion.
Narcissists like to “name drop,” acting as if they know important people better than they really do. We can usually diagnose a narcissist at the first appointment when they call us “Paul” or “Todd,” rather than Dr. Meier or Dr. Clements. These kinds of people always want special favors and expect to be seen without an
appointment or get a prescription for a family member who is not one of our patients. When we deny one of their requests, they become hurt and angry.
When dealing with a narcissist, we’ve found that we need to be polite, but we also need to maintain a professional, rather than personal, relationship with these people.
We see a lot of narcissistic characters on TV sitcoms, but in reality narcissism is no laughing matter. Even though the person may mean no harm at all, the attitude is prideful and it deceives and hurts others.
People Lie by Gossiping
Gossip ruins intimate relationships, and we believe it wrecks more marriages and friendships than any other factor. Often, gossip is not completely true—which means it is a lie—and those who spread it are liars. However, when confronted, gossipers nearly always shirk responsibility, claiming they were only repeating what someone else was already saying. Even if the gossip turns out to be completely true (which it...