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Why we lie

There are multiple reasons but generally people lie to get more of something or not to lose something

The first time Rohan lied to his wife Janvi, he made sure he spoke to her on the phone so that she couldn’t see his facial expression or eyes. People who lie are initially wary of revealing themselves through body language; they prepare in advance to appear normal. Janvi trusted Rohan and that emboldened him to fib more often and more glibly.

Researchers at the University College London and Duke University while investigating the effect of lying on the brain, discovered that the amygdala, the seat of our emotions, gets distressed and signals negative feelings when we lie the first time. However, as we choose to prevaricate in a variety of situations, it stops experiencing stress and adapts itself to our new behaviour, making it easier to lie.

Lying is learnt behaviour, and not natural like hunger, thirst, laughter or sex. Children learn to lie from adults, peers and the media. The habit has to be curbed in childhood itself because later it only gets reinforced and entrenched.

There are multiple reasons for lying but generally people lie to get more of something or not to lose something. More economic advantage, power, money, promotions, worldly success, more women, more men; the list is endless. It often originates in insecurity. The upshot of it all is that once a person learns to trade integrity with gains, it is a downhill slide which includes using unethical means.

People who lie often believe that others do not know they are lying. Modern society provides us YouTube videos and courses on how to lie without getting detected. Liars pick up the tips, tricks and techniques which are equally available to everyone. Liars adopt newer and newer ways of evading exposure. A popular American leader lied to evade impeachment and lost his earlier gleam. When a person lies beyond acceptable limits, their image gets tarnished permanently.

The consequences of repeated lying are grave. It spares none, not even the highest in the land. A lie is not just a playful aberration but an act of planned dishonesty for the sake of advantage. All liars are scared of some terrible fate. In the long run, no one ever flourished on lies. Their mental health gets affected, they experience emotional distress, loss of friendships and isolation. The bigger the scam, the bigger the man who takes his life to prevent public shaming.

I recall the words of my School Principal spoken to us in Grade IX. She had said, “Never do in secret what you are ashamed of doing in public.” This advice is the litmus test that distinguishes lies from truth. All extramarital affairs, scams, money-laundering episodes, political intrigues happen clandestinely and are built on the edifice of untruth, and deceit. All come a cropper with time. One wonders why people still resort to prevarication when they know they will be discovered.

“One word of truth outweighs the world,” said Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Speaking the truth is the easiest thing to do because it is based on facts. The beauty of truth is that it never changes. A life where we commit ourselves to speaking only the truth is the happiest. Wise people and saints universally have urged mankind to be truthful and experience inner peace.

Is it possible to give up the habit of lying?

Yes, it is. One way is to trust our conscience or the instinctive negative response of the brain and refrain from telling a lie. The second is to make an effort to speak the truth, irrespective of the temptations. The third is to share our decision with a friend or family member and request them to check us whenever we lapse.

A lie distorts our inner and outer worlds. To be a master of our soul, our being and our brain we must confidently choose only the ethical and honest path. Once we are determined to speak, think and act only in truth, the habit of telling a lie should get rooted out forever.

vineykirpal@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 2:15:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/why-we-lie/article31193097.ece

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