Most people are basically honest, but studies show that the average person lies several times a day. Usually, these are little white lies, like: “No, you don’t look like you’ve gained a pound.” These lies are deployed in the hopes of making people feel better, and those that tell them usually don’t feel guilty about their deception. Intentions are good.


Most people don’t tell big lies, like: “I don’t have a gambling problem. Money was just a little tight last month, and the second mortgage will be fine.” Trusting that people don’t lie is the foundation of our marriages, our work, and our everyday dealings in life. We expect that truth is essential to keeping our social fabric intact, to keeping our transactions big and small workable. Truth is essential to the human experience.


Types of Deception


A lot of people give themselves a pass when they omit information with the intent to deceive. They didn’t actually lie, their thinking goes. But in fact, it’s the intent to deceive that makes omission a lie. Concealing the truth can be just as much of a lie as telling an outright whopper. Withholding information is like making a false statement, misrepresenting facts, or deliberately distorting the truth. When the lie of omission is self-serving, it gives the liar what he wants. It makes him look better, or it helps him avoid embarrassment or shame. At its core, it’s still a lie.


Gaslighting is an especially insidious form of deception. It takes place when one person manufactures a lie with the intent to manipulate another person to his detriment. And worse, the gaslighter undermines his victim’s sense of reality, creating confusion and a sense of disbelief in the victim’s own self. This tactic is especially heinous because the gaslighter uses it to assert his control, a common ploy of abusers, narcissists, and authoritarian leaders.


Self-deception is another kind of lie, the kind you tell to yourself. While lying to yourself is often considered to be harmless, it’s probably not good for you. But sometimes, lying to yourself just helps you get through the day, or achieve a goal that you might not reach for if you were totally grounded in reality.

Marriage Counseling, Relationship Therapy, Couples Counseling

Why Lie?


Most people lie to avoid negative consequences. And while everyone lies a little, only a few people lie a lot. Those that do are the worst kind of liar—manipulative, exploitive, and often pathological, or compulsive, liars. They lie as a way of controlling others or to hoodwink others into thinking they are better than they really are. These are not just lies, they’re damn lies.



Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: