Here’s a million-dollar question asked and battled throughout the ages: Why do “good” people believe lies?
It is one that has again been called to the forefront in our national discourse on several levels.
There are myriad answers to that question, resulting from personal experiences that influence otherwise trustworthy people not only to believe falsehoods but also to spread the lies to others. Here are a few possible reasons.
First, pain. The truth is too painful to face head-on, so we refuse to acknowledge that what we’ve chosen to accept as truth is, in reality, a lie.
Second, loss. To face the truth robs one of something held dear – often power or control. Rather than find our place in a new context, we grasp for anything, and anyone, who will affirm, and help us retain, our current status.
Third, ignorance. Though less common, some people truly don’t recognize a lie when it is presented. Lack of knowledge, feigned or actual, provides them a state of bliss.
Fourth, cultural assimilation. A desire to fit in with one’s group, tribe, family or social structure causes you to believe what they’re saying even when you know better.
Fifth, moral weakness. This is perhaps the most common reason. When someone doesn’t have the fortitude to do their own research they “leave the details to others,” or they know the truth but are unwilling to speak out.
Sixth, secondary gain. Believing and propagating the lie brings a personal benefit, so we trade integrity for short-term benefits.
Seventh, fear. Acquiring better information would require that we take personal responsibility for the lies we’ve believed and told and that we change our way of thinking and acting.
Eighth, protection. We seek to safeguard the fragile, though false, narrative upon which one’s life is built.
Ninth, societal politeness. It’s easier to go along to get along, so we choose not to upset the proverbial apple cart.
Tenth, cultural indoctrination. We develop blinders and become unable to grasp that what may be seen as truth for one segment of society is not for others.
Whatever the reasons we come to believe and propagate falsehoods, the lies we tell will fundamentally change who we are at some point.
This truth must be remembered and emphasized at a time in our nation’s history when utter falsehoods, along with half-truths and partial truths, run rampant.
Like cancer cells alter DNA, lies replicate then propagate. They will grow uncontrolled and eventually take over what was once normal. And they will make it malignant.
Lies impact your personality, character and relationships. What was once good, decent and healthy will become the opposite. Sticking with the medical metaphor, the very nature of the original thing will be changed into something quite different.
At some point, we bear responsibility for what we believe and then what we say and do as a result of those beliefs.
There is no free ride. A lie, any lie will ultimately be found out and it will come back to hurt and haunt – with a vengeance.
The further one goes down the path of placating, equivocating, dodging and excusing lies, the larger and more consequential the results.
Logarithmically, time and volume magnify the painful consequences when the piper must be paid.
And, of course, the worst lies are those we tell ourselves.