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Does the title of my article make you uncomfortable? It is a bit disconcerting, isn’t it? Lying: why do we do it? There are many reasons we choose to lie. We do it to avoid trouble, not hurt feelings, look good on a resumé, get a date, or break a date. We lie about our weight, our age, our salary. We lie to save face, to make people laugh, or simply to make life easier. At least, that is what we tell ourselves. Unconsciously, we are trying to be happy and preserve our ego. Many individuals believe that Christians should be the most transparent and sincerest people to populate the planet. But the truth is, we are not. As Christians, many of us want others to think that we have our emotions, family, relationships, finances, faith, everything in order even as we struggle daily.
I am sure you probably know of someone who lies regularly. It is not easy having a relationship with a habitual liar, much less a good relationship. Did you know that lying can become habit-forming? It is true. Lying can best become habit-forming when the person doing the lying views their lie as unharmful and insignificant. The fact is that the small “unharmful” lies we tell and perceive as effective propel us to tell bigger lies. The brain chemicals adrenaline, endorphins, and dopamine are the reason for this reaction. Dopamine is triggered when we are attempting to complete a challenge. Adrenaline prompts us for action (fight or flight response) when we sense danger. Endorphins increase our stamina and help us to feel good. Together they create a sense of thrill, a rush that can be highly addictive. The more we experience them, the more we want. This is what happens with addicts and thrill-seekers as well. Challenges trigger these chemicals to flow so that lying can essentially feel good, turning us into a habitual liar. And though the feeling may be thrilling, it is also fleeting and self-defeating. When we lie, we dishonor our relationship with another; we create damage with our external relationships and our internal relationship with self and God. Carlo Collodi (the author of Pinocchio), Aesop, Machiavelli, Aristotle, and Thomas Jefferson dedicated a portion of their writings to the topic of lying. Each concluded that in the end, lying is harmful mostly to the teller of the lies.
As a coach and counselor, I tell my clients that the same thrill and rush can be experienced by being honest, especially when one perceives the event as uncomfortable and/or a challenge. The same brain chemicals will flow. However, the potential outcome may boost our self-esteem rather than assault it. Moreover, our confidence in our ability to navigate muddy waters and to use our God-given gifts for beneficial discernment and appropriate action will increase. The more we bravely tell the truth, the easier it gets and the better relationships we will have. Remember, it helps to carefully choose one’s words, tone, volume, and, if appropriate, the time of day to begin an honest conversation that is difficult and/or uncomfortable.
I will leave you with this final verse to meditate on from Luke 16:10,
It is true. Believe me.
Until next week!
Dr. Marie Yvette Hernandez-Seltz is the founder of Candescent Counseling, Consulting & Coaching. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and an M.S. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. She has spent the past 15 years studying self-esteem, self-confidence, responsibility, and the effects of environment and culture on the individual.