We All Lie; I Might Be Lying Now…

I was listening to this presentation by some woman on a TED talk on the subject of lying and telling the truth. Her premise is that all of us lie in some way, in different degrees, and a lot of it is based more on who we’re talking to than what we’re lying about.

I'm lying
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I found that intriguing, and I don’t remember any of the numbers right now because I was doing somethings with numbers at the time and didn’t want to mix these things up. However, it got me thinking enough about the subject to decide to write a blog post about it; that’s inspiration for you.

One of the major recommendations I always make when it comes to blogging is that you should be truthful in what you write about because people can tell if you’re putting them on. When I think about my own writings, and if I was going to be honest, I’d probably have to say that I’m at least 90% honest in all the blog posts I do.

You’re wondering where I’m lying, or why I’m not owning up to a full 100% right? Well, based on what this lady was saying, if we sugar coat certain things so we don’t hurt people’s feelings, or withhold some things that we think might coat us in a negative light, or someone else in a negative way, that’s a form of lying, if indirectly doing so.

It’s in that vein where I may be lying to you sometimes. I don’t often set out to intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings. I certainly make sure I choose my words fairly carefully when I write blog posts, even if I’m telling a true story. For instance, when I wrote my post about bullying on blogs and mentioned my friend’s blog and video, if you visited either one of those you’ll see there was a lot more emotion in what she wrote and words that I’d never use in person, let alone write on my blog. In my mind I told her story in my way, as honest as I could with my personal demeanor, but not as brutally honest as she told it since it happened to her.

So, was I lying? Directly no. But based on some of the comments the post received I had to wonder if they would have been different if I’d told the story differently, showed way more anger than I did, told more truth than I did in my post about her experience, maybe shared more of one of my own experiences from my past. Is that lying or a writer’s prerogative, and does a prerogative negate something as a lie or not?

I’ll put the question out to you, because who says that experts always know what reality is anyway? lol Often I think reality is what we believe it is and science is what it thinks it is, and the two don’t always agree. So, when we don’t tell it totally as it is are we prevaricating or are we still being truthful, just in our own way?

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40 thoughts on “We All Lie; I Might Be Lying Now…”

  1. To answer your question, I don’t think you were lying.

    I would like to share with you something that a friend of mine said to me once. I don’t remember the exact story but it was over something that he had lied to me about, and when I came to know about it, I decided to confront him with it and ask him why he had lied. He told me he didn’t lie, he was only hiding things and twisting stories which didn’t affect anybody directly. According to him, hiding things and twisting stories that doesn’t harm anybody was not the same as lying.

    I didn’t agree with him.

    1. Well Pitt, your story almost sounds like I was lying. lol Truthfully I think its more about reason than how true something is most of the time. But those who study things like this don’t make distinctions.

  2. No, I don’t think that you lied and that is not what the speaker would have meant any way when she talked about white lies. Strangely enough, just to try and help a friend with a grand daughter who is a compulsive liar, I read a book on the whole process – Why We Lie The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind by David Livingstone Smith. It certainly helped me understand the logic for the phenomenon but I was unable to use any of the knowledge gained in handling the little girl who is now undergoing therapy as recommended by me.

    Yes, all of us lie. Honesty and uprightness is a matter of degree!
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    1. I’m with you on your conclusion Rummuser, but the speaker really did mean what she was saying. However, she was telling the story as an academic, not as general conversation, and their beliefs going into their studies would give them different conclusions like that.

  3. OMG! Mitch,

    How could you forget about the book I wrote in 2010: “Don’t Ask and I Won’t Have to Lie” You even gave me a quote for chapter 6.


    We ALL lie—or should I say we stretch the truth or withhold certain information. I do not, however, condone lying in a blog post. If you don’t really know what you’re talking about then don’t write it. PERIOD!

    1. Bev, I’m not omniscient 24/7, especially when I’m not at home when writing a blog post and I’m tired! lol That’s why I have you stopping by to remind me of stuff. lol And to a degree I think you’re right when talking about people writing on things they know little about. I’m not sure misrepresentation is necessarily a lie because people can do research and write on something they only know about in that moment and never remember it again. Now if they set themselves up as an expert in it… then there’s a problem.

  4. I don’t personally mind little lies, like to say to somebody “you look great”, wow. I personally can’t stand sales pitch and ignorance, but lies hey even my 4 year old son try to lie when he do something wrong, human nature.

    1. Carl, I think when we’re trying to spare feelings when we’re not trying to hide something that it’s lying but it’s forgivable. Lying & saying you weren’t with that woman when you were and you’re trying to protect yourself… lie! lol

      1. Hehe, loving this example and I will back it up with another one – “We are just friends”. Yeah, there is a large gap and this reminds me one Chinese movie, when the criminal have said to his friend – “If I was a good liar, I would be politic, but this is too complicated to me, that’s why I am a thief”.
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  5. Sugar-coating when reporting another event is another form of lying – at least in a “positive” way. Most bloggers, copywriters, and writers are “guilty” of this.

    This type of lying is acceptable because it tends to “downplay” negatives and “promote” positives in products, events, and activities, etc.

    We all are liars if the above defines what we do all the time. So, the observation of the woman in TED talk is correct.

    At the end, what matters is that timing and how lying is used should be considered when comparing what reality and science state about lying!

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  6. Well you didn’t really need to see TED talks to have started reflecting on lies and lying; any episode of HOUSE MD would have brought you to that chain of thought. Haha.

  7. Mitch, the older I get, the more I see many things in life not as a choice between two opposites, but as a spectrum stretching from one end to the other. I recently interviewed a woman for an article I was writing, and I used a quote based on a few different things she said. She was struggling to explain herself — as we often do when we’re speaking — and I distilled her words into a coherent couple of sentences that exactly reflected what she was trying to say. But in truth, I had not simply recorded and played back her exact statements. I guess you could make the argument that I lied, but I don’t see it that way. And I look at what you do as the same kind of thing.

    1. Great stuff Charles, and I thank you for your example. Sometimes as writers we have to change things up, and as friends and, sometimes leaders, we have to be able to communicate properly with those we feel some kind of responsibility to. Still, there are those times we lie when we probably don’t have to, such as when someone comes up to us in a store and asks if they can help us and we don’t accept it, even if it could get us out of there earlier. lol

    1. Thanks Chadrack. I actually believe intent really defines whether a lie is bad or not but in the scientific sense it really is still a lie. πŸ™‚

  8. I write fiction, so I disqualify myself from this thread. Instead let me tell you what one of my characters said to another:

    “Context does not invalidate reality. Meaning is based, not on semantics, but perception.”

    That’s what makes it possible to have lies, damned lies and statistics. πŸ™‚



    1. Mitch, the other quote along those lines is “Perception is Reality.” That’s true and yet it’s not truth, if you know what I mean. I figure that’s why liberals and conservatives can look at the same information and come away with different results.

      1. Exactly right, Mitch. One has to climb out of the Petri dish to see that both cultures are looking at the same thing from different perspectives.



  9. In one of my favorite TV shows, House (already mentioned by Jason) used to say, “Everybody Lies”. That’s good enough for me. lol The funny thing is, one of the most common, and ignorant, statements we hear people repeating is, “I hate liars”. Do they hate everyone then? Every time I hear someone say that, I have to resist the urge to judge THEM as a self hating liar. Harsh, I know, but true.

    I think there are many degrees of lies and what I might think or consider a lie may not be a lie at all to someone else. Is it a lie when we are wrong or give bad advice when we think we are right? The damage can be pretty severe in certain cases. Is it a lie when we leave out portions of a statement that we know we should share? Is it a lie when the majority feels it’s a lie or when the individual feels it’s a lie? It’s 3am so I’m sure I should shut up now. lol

    @Mitchell Allen: I love that wisdom πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks, Brian. I bet you that what people REALLY mean when they say that they hate liars is, “I hate when somebody pulls that stunt on ME!”

      The thing about lies is that their collateral damage is not like a well-defined blast zone. Lies affect people differently, regardless of each individual’s proximity to the liar.

      “Mom said I could have another cookie.” If dad gives the liar a cookie, what happens when Mom slaps him silly? (The kid, not dad!) What happens when the other siblings get short-changed when Mom throws out the cookies in anger?

      Worst of all, what happens when that innocent Girl Scout rings the bell the next day? LOL



    2. Brian, writing at 3AM can be hazardous to one’s health; trust me, I know. lol Overall I don’t think I was lying to anyone and yet I know that there are times when I’ll tell a story that’s true yet leave something out that I either think is an extraneous point or something that will only confuse the reader or the person I’m telling the story to. It’s the difference between telling a story with only the pertinent facts to get to the point or telling a story with all the sidebars that may make a person sound long winded yet might be needed to give the person judging or listening to the story everything they need to make a proper decision about what they’ve heard.

    3. I’m glad you pointed clarified the mother slapped the kid, not the dad, Mitchell. lol I was going the other way when I was reading it.

      Mitch, I think reason and motive are important. Leaving something out because of the reasons you said seem innocent enough. If we leave a point or two out to be right or to get our way though, that’s another story.

  10. I really agree with that premise and i am sure that some time, a small lie can make us feel better even though is just a lie.

    Having that said, i don’t agree with deceiving, which i consider it much worse.

    1. Radu, for the most part I agree with you. I think there’s deceiving such as not picking up the phone when you don’t want to talk to the person who’s calling and there’s deceiving when you give someone information to protect yourself or protect them in some fashion. It’s like you can’t tell a 4-year old why they shouldn’t talk to strangers yet you have to give them enough so that they’ll take the lesson to heart.

      1. I hear you. For some reason, i consider deceiving so much bad than an honest lie. I lie, when i believe that the truth will harm the person next to me, but i don’t use it as a regular way of avoiding/facing the problems.
        However, i think your phone argument is right and i can relate . I do it from time to time, when i don’t want to be disturbed πŸ™‚

  11. I tend to break up lying into two camps: ‘malicious’ and ‘human’. The former is all I’m really worried about, I think we all lie for obvious and harmless reasons often so we should just accept it as part of human interaction!

    1. Interesting thought JC, one I can’t disagree with though I might extend it somewhat. If I lie to protect myself from something that didn’t deserve it, knowing there’s a possibility I can be found out, it could fall into both camps and end up with the same consequences. The same with being malicious; every once in awhile someone benefits from a malicious lie against them, while the person doing it is rendered to have only been looking out for their own self interests, something most humans will do no matter what. Still, your idea gives a lot to think about.

  12. I think its all about the angle the writer sees it from. Its not lying from my perspective. For example in some cases, people just lie to themselves, knowing very deep down they are wrong but they simply choose to ignore that and take the lie as reality. I still don’t consider that as a true lie, the person in question is simple wrong.

    What do I consider a real lie? Lying my ass off during an interview a few months ago, yeah, said I knew stuff I didn’t had the smallest idea about and they went along with it. Once I got the project, learned everything about the stuff I knew nothing about and everything was fine and everybody happy.

    In the words of Terence McKenna: “Inform yourself. What does inform yourself mean? It means transcend and mistrust ideology. Go for direct experience. Everything else is unconfirmable rumor, useless, probably lies. So, liberate yourself from the illusion of culture. Take responsibility for what you think and what you do.”

    1. Now I’m confused; just how are you supposed to spell your name? lol Gutsy thing you did in saying you could do something when you couldn’t. Good thing you learned it but I’ve never been able to even think about doing that one.

  13. Hey Mitch,

    Well, I guess no one is exempted with it comes to lying. Even the most honorable persons in the planet lie. I mean if we measure lie as something that we sometimes hide or something that we won’t tell directly. In that sense, I sometimes confuse myself. What is a lie? and on what range does a lie cover? Does being secretive means your a liar already? Well, in my own perspective, a lie is something that is not told correctly on purpose and that being secretive is not a lie itself. It’s more likely different from a lie.
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    1. Good stuff Farrell. Truthfully I tend to believe that all of us know when we’re really lying and either care in those moments or not. I don’t think withholding truths is lying; lying is an action term in my opinion. Do you tell your best friend that his or her mate is cheating when you know that not only will they react badly but they’ll find a way to blame you for telling them… is that a lie or self preservation? We know; whether the other person agrees once they find out, if they find out… another story. πŸ™‚

  14. Actually, We all tell little lies, usually with good itentions (not hurting someone). It has been a topic of research lately.

  15. This was a good read. I can’t imagine one person ever telling the truth 100% of the time. We omit information, occasionally exaggerate for different reasons, whether it be to make the story shorter and get to the point or make things more exciting, sadder etc.

    1. That’s true Kristine. I like to think of myself as a very honest person, but I’ll withhold things often that I don’t think will benefit someone else hearing it. And of course I keep certain things private, no matter what.

  16. Various researchers have determined that in a given day we may be lied to anywhere from 10-200 times. In one study, strangers lied to each other three times within the first ten minutes of meeting each other. What makes this study interesting is not the volume of lies told — it’s that before seeing the video of themselves lying, participants overwhelmingly reported that they had been truthful. That we under-report the number of lies we tell suggests that lying is so common, so reflexive, that we are literally unaware of the steady stream of falsehoods we utter.

    1. That’s great stuff Patricia; thanks for sharing that. It’s interesting to think that for most of us we can probably only be so honest even if we’re being as honest as possible.

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