The Value of a Lie

Do we ever outgrow the desire to get away with something? Do we ever outgrow the desire to tell a lie?

rings of water on smooth lake, reflected trees, blue sky and puffy white clouds

Just as you may not know what disturbed the water but you see its effects in the ripples, a lie does not have to be discovered to affect your relationships.

Remember how when you were a kid and you told a fib and you got away with it? Or at least for a little while you thought you did? It didn’t matter whether you did it to not get in trouble, or just because you wanted the thrill of a secret.

Remember how you’d sing a little song in your head?

 ‘I got a secret. I told a lie.

I got a secret. I told a lie.’

Remember how much trouble you were in when the truth was discovered? And how the board of education would get applied to your seat of learning?

And yet, despite getting caught at least some of the time, the thrill of telling a lie never really goes away. It certainly beats telling the truth when the truth is unpleasant and will result in a consequence that you want to avoid.

That’s the value of a lie, isn’t it? The story you tell is how you wish things were or what you think others want to hear.

The problem with that cheap approach is two-fold.

First of all, telling a lie doesn’t alter reality. Abraham Lincoln said it well when he asked, “How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

Second, telling a lie brings its own consequences, often on top of the consequences of the action you lied about. If not today, or tomorrow, somewhere down the road, the truth will catch up with you.

So why do we do it?

The Truth Sucks

Quite simply because often the truth sucks. It’s so much easier to tell a version of reality as you wish it were rather than how it really is.

And so, you prevaricate. You dissemble.

Maybe it’s to protect yourself. Or to make yourself look good. Or to improve your social standing. Or just to avoid punishment.

You think you’re doing yourself a favor when in reality all you’re doing is postponing the inevitable and making the future harder than it needs to be. It’s harder because first of all, whether you want to admit it or not, the person you’re lying to knows that you’re lying. She knows you’re deluding yourself and will either pity you, or distrust you.

Pity and distrust make a lousy foundation for a relationship.

So here’s a truth that really sucks: People don’t like people they can’t trust.

Here’s another truth that really sucks: Because your trustworthiness is on the line, coming clean about the lie as soon as possible is the only way to repay your debt of truth. Every day that passes accrues interest on the truth that is owed. Unpaid, your debt becomes unmanageable, until eventually, it can never be paid in full. When that happens, the person you’ve lied to may well choose to write you off as a deadbeat relationship.


I believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie.

I believe it is better to be free than to be a slave.

And I believe it is better to know than to be ignorant.

~ H. L. Mencken

Life Is Honest, Open and True: Sometimes it seems to be easier to tell a lie than to tell the truth. Telling a lie creates a debt called pity and distrust. The only way to repay the debt is with truth. The sooner the truth is told, the less interest that is due on the debt. Left alone, the truth debt mounts until your friends and family write you off as a deadbeat from whom they will never collect the truth that is owed them.

Would you share this post? Tweet: The value of a lie and the truth that really sucks. A blog post by D’Anne Hotchkiss


Thanks to my reader who suggested this story idea to me. If you have an idea you’d like me to address, tell me about it in the comments or tweet me @lifeishotblog with the hash tag #LifeIsHOT!


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