We all Lie–especially to ourselves

A review of The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty by Dan Ariely

You are a thief and a liar! You may not be a grand thief—you won’t take the office computer home, but the office pen won’t hurt, will it? You lie to yourself (that dress doesn’t make you look fat), you lie to others (just this one brownie won’t hurt you), and you cheat, although minimally (just five minutes in the no-parking zone). These things add up and change our character over time.

In this post we will address just what does the research show us about our self-deception.

Book Review

This review first appeared in the CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL, volume 36, number 01 (2013). The full text of this article in PDF format can be obtained by clicking here. For further information or to subscribe to the CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL go to: http://www.equip.org/christian-research-journal/

Here is a clip of it.

Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, director of the Center for Advanced Hindsight and New York Times bestselling author of Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality, has written another provocative book, The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty. This book is about the experiments Ariely conducted with approximately thirty thousand people, where he found that very few people cheat a lot, but almost all of us cheat a little bit. Ariely’s book is written with a great deal of humor and stories where he argues that we “lie to everyone—especially ourselves.”

It is a common assumption that, whether consciously or not, we use a “cost–benefit analysis” method to decide if we will cheat: “What do I stand to gain, and how much do I stand to lose?” According to Ariely, however, how we decide whether to be dishonest is a lot more complicated than that. The standard model takes into account only the punishment (typically of a legal nature) and does not include variables such as psychological, environmental, or societal factors that may exist to help keep us honest. Ariely argues each of these factors affects our decision about whether to act dishonestly or not. His scientific research establishes that the myth that we are all basically good is false. His conclusion is that we all cheat (and, I add, including Christians), but the question is: how much, when, and why?

We Are All Dishonest in One Way or Another. You probably consider yourself to be a law-abiding, good citizen. But what if you were faced with a cataclysmic event that devastated your community and destroyed your social structure—where there were no police, no hospitals, and no grocery stores? What would you do, or not do, to survive—to protect and provide for your family? The thought about what I am capable of under the right circumstances frightens me,

Read the rest here.

What did you think?  Is human nature fundamentally flawed?  Do we all lie?


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Desiree Patillo

    The article “We All Lie-Especially to Ourselves” made me giggle to myself when I first read the title because I was wonder to myself if some people who I know believe the lies that tell other people. By me being saved and focused on having integrity and no lying I never even considered whether or not I have ever lied or convinced myself of something that was untrue. With that being said I do understand how quick the human mind makes the educated decision to lie rather than to tell the truth based on the outcome of the situation. While I don’t lie I have neglected to tell someone out right that what they are wearing makes them look fat or that they have B.O. I do understand that from the time we are born we are “Of a few days and full of trouble” aka sin so we subconsciously lie. A lie is lie whether for the good or bad. Even on our jobs if you are asked a question to quickly the first thing that you think to do is lie.

  • Kharisma Walker

    Growing up as a child. Many of the kids used curse words, many stole, many lied to the teacher, and because I was such a good kid I was so afraid to do anything. I was afraid to let one lie or curse word roll off my tongue in fear that the devil may come get me. One day I had this sudden thought of if everyone else was cursing and telling lies then the devil must not be real because there still coming to school, there still happy. So I wanted to try it out. My mouth twitched and I began to stutter. Soon after a curse word rolled off my tongue and in shame I apologize to God immediately, but nothing happened. I didn’t feel a difference. I still felt like me. I felt free from fear. The very next week my school held a library book fair. I always enjoyed buying books at the store because we also got cool things. As we went down to the book fair I spotted my friends grabbing things and sliding it in their bags. There was no censors on anything so it was an easy crime. I spotted a notebook that I really wanted. It was a diary that can lock and it was bright pink. I wanted it so bad I thought to myself. If can curse and get away with it maybe taking one little book wouldn’t hurt. So I took it. I was so afraid, yet I felt accomplished and free. I went up to my classroom opened the book and as soon as I was about to write inside this book my teacher asked if I paid for it and that it was beautiful . I said yes, which was the biggest lie ever. I felt so ashamed after everything . I slid the book back under the door of the book fair office with a note that said “Sorry”.

    As I grew older the lies, and cursing became apart of my daily use. My parents did it ALOT, my friends did it, and I did it because as I grew older I realized curse words and lying was a must. I had to defend myself so words cut deep, and I also had to lie myself out of things especially by telling little white lies.

    In life I have learned that God forgives, but it’s hard to keep your record clean for him if life consists of things that require you to lie and curse and so on.

    • Thank you for your honesty and vivid word pictures here Kharisma!
      Yes, doing the wrong thing at first is not easy. But if we do it enough, we start to develop calluses on our souls to evil. What can be done at that point?