What makes us lie?

T. T. Srinath

T. T. Srinath  


In the merchant navy there is a tradition for a member of the crew, rotating among themselves, to log the day’s proceedings.

The Captain of a merchant navy ship once recorded that his First Officer, whom he disliked, was drunk on a particular day. The officer, on reading the log, was distraught and pleaded with the Captain to revise the record as it would affect his career. The Captain, in a supercilious manner, said, “I have only recorded the truth.” A few days later it was the turn of the First Officer to enter the log. He wrote in the log, “Today, our Captain was not drunk.” The Captain, on reading the log, was furious and remonstrated with the First Officer saying, “I never drink, so how can you record that I was not drunk today?” The First Officer astutely replied, “Sir, I have only recorded the truth.”

Under the guise of what we term a ‘white lie’, a lie that is not incorrect but only partially true, we believe we can do so with impunity. Yet what makes us lie in the first place?

For myself, I have realised I tend to lie when I am threatened or frightened, when I feel vulnerable and when I am scared of the consequences of speaking the truth. Therefore I realise that I lie to self-preserve. However, when and if I lie, I often find that I have to mask one lie with another and this compounds.

I have come to realise therefore that while lying may let me off the hook for the moment, in the long term I will have to manufacture several more to disguise my first lie. I thus chain myself, burden myself and sometimes feel wretched.

When I choose not to lie, I am able to walk erect and feel unencumbered.

( The writer is an organisational and behavioural consultant. He can be contacted at

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 12:58:28 AM |

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