An interesting topic. It seems most people justify their own lies, but don’t like being on the receving end of others.
That’s because lying tends to give the liar an advantage over the other person, in that moment. One that’s boldly taken, not given.
And that’s worth thinking about. You’re purposefully misleading them. You want to own their perspective in that moment.
But there is a true cost you may have overlooked as you thought rather quickly:
One problem obviously occurs when you send them down a new path that has downsides for them that you didn’t think of. Because that means you just did something to them that wasn’t particularly nice. Perhaps they pass your lie on to others as truth and that comes back to hurt them? Or they make different decisions because of your lie that hold them back? Or perhaps they make decisions that backfire on you? That happens a lot too. You don’t always notice it, but when things don’t end up going your way on occasion, it could them reacting to the false information you gave them.
Another problem is that you may have to keep that lie alive for an unknown amount of time into your future (exhausting?) for fear of the third problem:
The third problem occurs when the person being lied to becomes aware of it. Often it’s because other people don’t realise that they’re not in your game.
Consider this: someone close to you has almost certainly led you to believe something. That someone else – who perhaps you even both know – knows isn’t true. But because you believe it, you accept it without further question, and live as if it’s true. But it’s not actually what’s going on. This happens all the time, and so has a dedicated proverb – “ignorance is bliss”.
And once someone becomes aware that they’ve had the wool pulled over their eyes, do they speak up? Or do they choose to play along to avoid conflict (or to see what else you’ll do..) which now distances the two of you in ways you may not have wanted?
If this happens a few times (or enough times), the liar becomes ‘someone who lies’. So you’d end up treading carefully around nearly everything they say. They wouldn’t realise it, but you’d be playing a new game with them. Which may just make a rod for your own back. The discovered lie subtly but profoundly impacts interpersonal dynamics, particularly around trust, respect, and bonding.
And this is a major point to help you decide if lying is worth it: “Do you want to become closer to the person you’re considering lying to, or open the gap up between you and them, essentially pushing them further away?” It may be either. But it’s worth thinking about.
It’s an interesting one. Because they may or may not ever notice the gap you put between you. But YOU know it. And have to decide if living with it is preferable to actually closing the gap with someone who could understand you and become a trusted ally. An interesting choice.
It’s surely contextual. Telling little kids that Father Christmas exists is probably different to adults lying to each other. And lying in attempt to protect yourself and survive can surely not be frowned upon too much? But what if you misjudge ‘protecting yourself’ and what if you’d have become more protected had you have told the truth? It’s hard to tell which ‘lies’ or ‘untruths’ make everyone involved better off. But it’s probably not many. I’d imagine that if most of us did it less, things would be better for YOU. (That means everyone).
If you want more on this, Sam Harris’s excellent short book “Lying” explores much of it.