Nancy Roman

Why Lie?

We all lie.

I can’t imagine someone who has never told a lie. Someone who has been completely honest his whole life.

I consider myself an honest person. But completely honest?

I have told a friend her haircut was just fine. (when it wasn’t)

I have told a boss I was sick. (when I wasn’t)

I have told my mother her gift was just what I wanted (when it wasn’t)

I have told a subordinate I was satisfied with her work (when I wasn’t)

Hell, I even told my dog the chicken was all gone… when… well, you get the picture.

Recent events have reminded me of two lies from my past – not lies that I told but lies that were told to me.

1)  When I was in college, a boy sent me a whole series of letters…one every day… that were just hilarious. (If this sounds familiar… see “Kissing Frogs”). How could I not love a boy with such imagination, playfulness, writing skills, postage stamps…etc.? He was the most creative person I had ever met! And then in my Lit class that Fall, I found that he had not exactly written those letters. He had just typed them. Kurt Vonnegut had written them.

2)  Many years ago, a then-close friend told me a sad family secret. She cried as she told me about her sister who had died. her sister had been born with severe cognitive impairment as well as physical disabilities. They were both very young children, but my friend said she remembered her sister – her only sister – and to this day she felt incomplete without her. And years later, I saw some photos on Facebook of this woman and her sister – who had the same name as the one whose death supposedly haunted her. Quite healthy. A banking executive.

So what kind of lies were these?  What purpose did they serve?

Mark Twain said (and gave credit to Benjamin Disraeli) that there three kinds of lies:  lies, damn lies, and statistics. And I get that last one – you can easily manipulate data to prove dubious points.

As far as lies and damn lies, I see this too.

Because there are lies you tell to protect someone. Often that someone is yourself.  When I told my boss I was sick, I was protecting myself.  And when I told my subordinate her work was okay, I was protecting her.

Then there are lies that are extensions of the Protection Lie. They go further than protecting someone – they are intended to support, please, or enrich someone. Telling my mother I loved her gift was one of these lies. And reassuring my girlfriend that her goofy haircut was okay was too. Some people call these white lies. I prefer to call them Comfort Cards.

We send Comfort Cards to ourselves too. We tell ourselves that we didn’t get the promotion because we are indispensable in the job we currently have.  And we tell ourselves that our own awful haircut makes us look unique and on trend.

There’s nothing wrong with Comfort Cards.

Lying out of kindness is okay in my book. As long as the lie doesn’t hurt anyone.

When my boyfriend sent me those letters, I suppose they didn’t carry much hurt. But still, there was some. I think he sent me those lies as Comfort Cards to himself, to seem cleverer than he was. And to be cleverer than me. And that was the hurt. That I felt a little like a fool.

Perhaps he thought I would recognize the letters as Vonnegut’s work, and was just sharing the joke… but I doubt it. For then, why do it? Why type them all out and take the trouble to send one at a time. I suppose I could be flattered that he would want to impress me so badly that he would cheat.

But I don’t think so. Because I also remember sitting around a table with several other people and hearing him tell them that his middle name was Harrison, when I had seen his driver’s license and his middle name was Howard. Later, when we were alone, I asked him why he did that and he said, “Just because I knew they would believe it.” He lied then to feel superior to those people. And that’s how I knew he lied to feel superior to me.

And my friend who lied about her sister? Why did she do that? Finding out these many years later has left me hurt and puzzled.

Was this her Comfort Card to herself? I can only surmise that she lied so that I would feel sorry for her. She wanted me to return her Comfort Card with one of my own. To gain sympathy.

And this hurts. That she would be so desperate for comfort that she was willing to “kill off” her sister to elicit some compassion.  Hurt that she could not simply say, “I’m feeling low right now and I could use some tenderness.” And especially hurt to consider the possibility that she thought I was not capable of compassion unless she invented some terrible tragedy.

Was that who I was then? Someone who had no empathy for the small pain of just getting through another day?

If so, I am glad I am no longer that cold woman.

I feel for all the little – and large – sorrows.

But there are other lies for which I have no tolerance. Damn Lies. Which seem to be accumulating and accelerating in today’s world.

Lies whose intent is selfishness, manipulation, or even worse.

Mean lies.

Mean lies do not just hurt my feelings. Mean lies hurt the world.

Someone asked recently how I could be hurt by lies that do not affect me personally.

How do those lies not affect me?

How am I not hurt?



Photo: John Moore/Getty Images


  1. I can remember my sister telling lies. My father couldn’t cope with her mental health illness, nor could he accept that she had changed her religion so he disowned her and ordered our mum to do the same. I guess her comfort card was to tell the emergency department at a hospital that I was her next of kin because her parents had died in a car accident 10 years ago. My sister told numerous lies, she needed to feel wanted and loved.


    • That is such a sad situation and must be difficult for you to handle. I admire that you can find compassion for her.


  2. Amen.


  3. We’ve all told the odd porkie, fib, or bent the truth a little. Most times it’s so as not to offend someone or to give them a confidence boost when they need it. It’s when you get caught out in a biggie that the S hits the fan. A ‘friend’ came unstuck when we invited her husband round for the evening as we knew he’d be on his own. He was surprised to see me, but we had a pleasant evening. All was explained on Monday at work when she laid into me about entertaining her husband and they’d had a blazing row when she got back from her own night out……. supposedly with me. Apparently we went out on girlie nights two or three times a week. The marriage ended in divorce, and her parents sided with her husband. Oops. Of course she saw it as all my fault.


    • Oh, I can just imagine how uncomfortable it was to be stuck in the middle…. “all your fault” by never knowing that you were the alibi.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I honestly had no idea she was using me like that and it made things very difficult in the office.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I am always a little bit confused when I stumble on a lie that seems to get bigger & bigger. I wonder if the lie becomes so real that the person telling it starts to believe that it is truth.


    • I think the capacity for self-deception is STRONG.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You’re right, little lies are simply a part of life. But the big lies, those are the ones that hurt innocent people. Unfortunately, it’s getting harder and harder to tell the truth from the lies, which seems to mean that most people simply discount any facts they hear that don’t allign with their world view. Not a good situation….


    • That’s sadly true. I can remember when facts were facts, and there were not “alternative facts.”


  6. I have a real issue with lying. I’m not trying to pretend I haven’t told my share. Like you, I have those “protection” lies in my history. But, I have found that once a person has lied to me I find it difficult to trust them again. I will forgive the lie but I never quite look at them the same again. One of my sisters is a compulsive liar. For no reason she creates these elaborate lies that always get found out for some reason or another. (You have to have a really good memory to be a good liar and no one around that knows the truth). My other sisters and I are at the point that we don’t believe a word she says. The dramas she has created to seek attention now are ignored for the most part because we don’t believe her. If she ever does really suffer something traumatic I’m afraid we might not believe it and won’t be there for her.
    Unfortunately, this is a trait she has handed down to her son and it is breaking my heart that he can lie so unabashedly to me. For the most part there is no reason for the lies. Nothing to gain or loose. It is just habit now.
    As you can probably guess, I really do have an issue with lying. As for your Lying Leader…how can any human being not be affected by the poison he spews. If they are not they are lying to themselves.



    I think we all hand out comfort cards at times because it makes others (and ourselves) feel better. Everyone has a blunt person in their lives who we wish would learn the concept of tact! We’ve all had a bad haircut but someone’s kind words can make the situation so much better.


  8. I am new at WordPress..


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