Zaw Aung an employee with a Yangonbased MNC was happy and all set to join her new position as a senior manager. She was getting the promotion after five years of her sincere and dedicated work yet she was willing to give credit for her promotion to her immediate boss who she considered an epitome of honesty and impartiality. But she was in for a shock the day she was supposed to join the new position when she read an email from her boss. Unable to control her emotions, she said, “I simply couldn’t believe this. My boss had assured me that my new position as senior manager was secure. She even complimented me for earning the promotion. And then she by mistake, copied me on an email about interviewing my replacement. I felt cheated.”
Lies exist everywhere whether at work place or in relationships. At some point in life, everyone is the victim of a lie and at the same time everyone has told a lie once in a while and has hidden it, as well. And not only do we just lie, we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to justify it, defend it, and/or blame it on anything except our own cowardly selves. But why do we lie, in the first place?
According to psychotherapists the reasons for lying could be as many as types of lies. The number and severity of the lies also varies from one person to another. Small “white lies or mercy lies” are told to avoid embarrassment or avoid hurting someone else’s feelings, and such type of lies are generally considered insignificant. Sometimes people lie to avoid responsibility, to build status and power, or to keep their jobs safe. They boast or conceal or omit the truth and would tell only the untruth or half-truths. People also lie when they feel pressurized to perform and because they lack the guts to tell the truth. Lying to help another person or a lie told with the intention of sparing the feeling of others from experiencing psychological harm is usually perceived to be good while lying to harm others is perceived to be wrong. We might tell our hostess that the dishes she prepared
for the dinner were all delicious or tell a colleague that her hard work has earned the organization a good reputation, when we actually don’t believe both things to be true.
Lying could take many forms, whether it is mere exaggeration, blatant untruths or deception. A common refrain of the masses worldwide about their politicians is, “It’s impossible to trust our leaders. Not only they are evasive but they also hold back from telling us the truth or tell us half-truths”. The world knows
about American Presidents Bill Clinton who lied about his affair with Monica Lewinsky and Richard Nixon claiming innocence over the Watergate scandal which brought him down.
Harmful Effects & Consequences
Several psychological studies have shown that consequences of lying can be injurious to your physical, mental, emotional and social health. Relationships are ruined forever due to emotional pain and your life itself can be in danger, as well.Any relationship built on a foundation of secrecy or lie is like a house built on sand. It’s bound to collapse, sooner or later. Lying quickly erodes trust – one of the fundamental pillars of a healthy relationship. Even if one side starts lying or lies even once, the trust is gone forever and everything can be ruined. This is true of all relationships – between children and parents, colleagues and the boss, or the married couple or for any other relationship.
One lie leads to another and to hide that one lie you might end up telling hundreds of them. Explaining the psychology behind such a behavior, Dr. Alen Joe of Wellness Clinic in Charleston, West Virginia, says, “It usually starts with small lies and slowly escalates. Lying could seem rewarding at first because getting away with lying once gives you the addictive power”. Well-known Indian cardiologist Dr. Satish Gupta says that lying too frequently or becoming hooked on lying could cause severe stress because breaking the pattern could be very difficult. The brain has to keep track of what you know and what you have told the other person. This becomes taxing for the working memory which could lead to wrong decision-making and problem-solving. Other negative consequences may also follow”. A recent study in Nature Neuroscience also found that habitual lying can desensitize our brains from “feeling bad,” and may even encourage us to tell bigger lies in the future.
Just ask yourself if you would trust the person who has lied to you before even once and you caught the lie. Chances are that you will mistrust him from that point forward. And if the person has been lying habitually, people become wary of him and avoid him at all cost. Losing people’s trust is not a slight thing. People mistrusting you or doubting you could lead to lonely you because nobody wants to befriend someone or have a close relationship with who cannot be trusted. Your reputation is not only tarnished but ruined. White lies may or may not get you into trouble but serious lies or deception could put you into a legal soup, as well.
“Lying releases stress hormones” says Arthur Markman, executive editor of the journal Cognitive Science. “Your heartbeat quickens, your pupils dilate, and you begin to sweat. Your brain recognizes that your lie may have put you in danger, so the fight-or-flight response kicks in as you gear up to defend yourself” he adds. Several research studies have shown that stress reduces body’s infection-fighting white blood cells, and over the years, could contribute to lower-back pain, tension headaches, a rapid heartbeat, menstrual problems, and even infertility in women.
Rewards of Honesty
So, we can easily say that telling lies is a complicated business which makes our lives difficult and bodies susceptible. Therefore, to have a simple, easy or less-complicated life, one must not get into the habit of lying. In other words, come what may, one must follow the age-old adage – ‘honesty is the best policy’. Telling the truth demonstrates a commitment to integrity that is valued by everyone. Even if people do not react well to expressions of honesty at first, they do respect the act of honesty and remember it in the future.
Honesty does not come alone; it brings with it other virtues also such as, patience, compassion, empathy and open-mindedness. Improved efficiency and closer relationships are yet other rewards of honesty. Japanese Buddhist teacher Ouchi says, “Telling the truth can be a liberating experience. Honesty is about being real with yourself and others about who you are. To live a most authentic life is essential for everyone as it sharpens our perception and consequently everything around us seems crystal clear”. It would be apt to quote ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu, “Be honest to those who are honest and be also honest to those who are not honest. Thus honesty is attained”.