Why do people lie? I guess that is an age-old question; like why is the sky blue?; why do we drive on a parkway and park in a driveway?, and why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?
There are the obvious reasons for lying to get out of trouble, to get something you want, to protect yourself, to make yourself look good. But for people with real problems telling the truth, people who constantly lie, why do they do it? Compulsive lying is difficult; the person has to always remember their lies. That seems like a lot of work. I have told the average person lies like: "no mom, I did not have a party while you were away - I don't know how all of those beer bottle caps got into the pool", "no your ass looks great in those jeans", and "yes, of course I had an orgasm". But bigger lies, like making up stories that never happened, can get complicated and eventually lead to more lies and before you know if you are so deep into a web of lies you have no idea what the truth is anymore. We all remember Sir Walter Scott's "Oh, what a tangled web we weave / When first we practice to deceive." Oooohhh, so that is what that means.
There are people who lie about both the small and big things. They lie for a variety of reasons, but mostly it is a control issue. These people are called pathological liars. I am a person who rarely lies; mainly because I am bad at it. So for me, I admire pathological liars. I admire their ability to lie, to come up with lies so quickly and to standby their lies and not crack when they get questioned. I crack like a twelve year old boy found with a porn magazine under his bed.
On the other hand, I do not want to be friends with a pathological liar. Who would? You cannot trust them. No matter what they say, you will be always questioning whether or not they are telling the truth. I actually know someone that if he told me today was Wednesday, I would have a hard time believing him.
All kidding aside, lying can be a sign of a deep self-esteem issue. University of Massachusetts psychologist Robert Feldman says "we find that as soon as people feel that their self-esteem is threatened, they immediately begin to lie at higher levels." When a person cares too much about what others think, they tend to try to impress people or try to avoid confrontation by lying. Again, lies are like dominoes; once you tell one, you tell another and another and another. Eventually the person will know the truth and your relationship will be ruined and you will have impressed no one. C'mon, did you really think they'd buy that Princess of Paris thing?
Parents need to know that all children will try their hand at lying some point in their life. It usually happens between the ages of 4 to 5. At this age they lie to cover up something they did wrong or they make up a story. Making up stories or imaginary friends is your child being creative and, if handled correctly, can be harmless. If a child is lying in order to protect themselves from a punishment, this can become a habit that stays with them. The easy part for parents is that at this age it is very obvious when the child is lying because they are not very good at it. That is why you do not want this behavior to continue because as we all know, practice makes perfect.
Not to sound like your Sunday school teacher, but there are great philosophers who were against lying. Immanuel Kant based his theory on lying on his general principle that we should treat each human being as an end in itself, and never as a mere means.
Therefore, lying to someone is not treating them as an end in themselves, but merely as a means for the liar to get what they want. Kant believed that society would collapse if people were to go around lying without any consequence. St. Augustine taught that there were times when lying was acceptable, but for the most part people used lies to deceive others and that was a true sin. Thomas Aquinas felt that there were different levels of lying and they were as follows:
Malicious lies: lies told to do harm
o Malicious lies are mortal sins
'Jocose lies': lies told in fun
o These are pardonable
'Officious' or helpful lies
o These are pardonable
Even if you do not believe or care if you sin, simply stated, "the truth may hurt for a little while, but a lie hurts forever." A lie hurts you and hurts everyone around you. Not to mention your nose will grow.