• Fri, May 20 2011

The Truth About Lying: The Art Of Deceit Makes Us Happy

The next time you manufacture a lie, whether a little fib, or a colossal corker, don’t beat yourself up about it. Turns out you will probably sleep better at night, live a happier life, and stave off illness. According to a new book Born Liars: Why We Can’t Live Without Deceit by Ian Leslie, lying is the force behind evolution. Odds are, the smartest strategist will succeed and prosper immensely in comparison with less-clever competitors. Lying makes us more reproductively-attractive, gives us balance, and interestingly enough, Leslie says that without them, we are prone to illness, depression, and even reality-induced insanity. Although, popularly frowned upon, I have to agree, and I’m sure my father Wayne Gretzsky, my husband Javier Bardem, and my pet unicorn who likes to dance on rainbows agree as well. Check this poker face.

Leslie’s caveat to this statement is that there is a fine line between fibbing and becoming a full-blown pathological liar. He warns that children around the age of nine who emit signals of believing their own lies should be taken to a therapist straight away, as getting hooked on deceit is a habit that’s hard to break in later life, and leads to precarious situations.

I’m all in support of little white lies. Telling a fib here and there to spare someone’s feelings is sometimes the kind, humane thing to do. Leslie’s point about being driven to insanity under the burden of life’s harsh realities has merit, especially when it comes to mental and emotional health. I know people who have gone through aching divorces and debilitating break-ups. When they find love again, they’re so happy and confident again, you don’t want to tell them that you think their new partner is an immature asshole of the lowest order. You smile and you say how happy you are for them. Sometimes, that’s what it means to be a good friend. And if your friend lives a long life of happiness unaware of all those shitty things, then surely that’s a good thing.

At the same time, that old adage of “honesty is the best policy” seems to be go-to temperament of our society. From pinky-swears to taking courtroom oaths on a stack of Bibles,  we have made so many behaviors our truth-touchstones. We have this burning desire for the truth, even if we know it will hurt us, and lead to unhappiness. That’s why we snoop and spy. We read other people’s private text messages and emails. We crack open their diaries. We guess at Facebook passwords. We want to know everything that’s being said about us behind our backs. It’s almost an obsession.

Is the truth over rated? Is ignorance bliss? Have you ever lied to get ahead? Do you lie to spare your loved ones’ feelings? Or is the honesty really the best policy? If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, sound off in the comments below.

(Photo: ThinkStock)

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  • Lucy the Liar

    I grew up lying to my parents out of fear of getting in trouble for whatever I did that was against the rules. I got caught a few times, but over time I got really good at it. I don’t lie to them anymore, and I would never lie to my friends unless I had a good reason to (to spare feelings, and especially to avoid causing drama).

    Lying can help to avoid causing drama because lets say you have two friends. Friend A says something about Friend B or says something Friend B shouldnt know. Then Friend B asks you about it, and you should play dumb, therefore lie to avoid causing that awful triangle drama. It works like a charm.

    I also lie about my number. I feel like everyone lies. As long as you don’t cause huge problems and own up to your lies when it matters, it should be okay. I don’t think anyone is to be trusted either.

  • Kathleen

    Mr. Leslie is forgetting a further step in human evolution: While the brain may increase in size with more and more skillful lying and self-deceit, brains will increase even more once such attained skills are self-examined and understood, and then the burden of responsibility NOT to use these learned skills is recognized and practiced. This involves a higher development of empathy then he notes is needed in lying to someone, and a full understanding and use of the Golden Rule.