The self-protective (ego-protective) lie is one used to make things more comfortable for us. When confronted, we answer “I didn’t say that,” or “You didn’t understand.”

The manipulative lie we use to make things happen for our convenience. We manipulate the truth for our welfare.

The impersonal lie, lying on income tax and expense accounts, for example, we call padding and feel that everyone does it and anyway, it’s so insignificant that we assure ourselves it hurts noone.

The status lie we use to build our own egos. We engage in one-upmanship games to impress others. If they have accomplished something, we’ve done one better. These are but a few categories of lies. We also have the cover-up lie, the conspiratorial lie, and so many others. I’m sure all of us could add to the list.

Most individuals do not consider these lies of sufficient magnitude to even warrant the name of evil. In fact, in some cases we are convinced that they actually benefit us or others. As mentioned earlier, these untruths are often referred to in the literature as “benevolent lies,”  and they are seen as kind, considerate, warranted.

The secretary of the great religious leader, Martin Luther is quoted in a letter to Max Lenz saying that such lies are not against God and that he felt that God would be understanding of them and accept them.

This, even though Revelations 22:15 groups liars, fornicators, murderers and idolators, and denies them entry into heaven.

By deceiving in any way (as previously mentioned, deception is always a choice), we infer that we merit a very special status. We feel it perfectly permissible to lie for our own purposes, but are often indignant that others would consider lying to us. Our casual dishonesty may seem of little consequence to us, but we often fail to consider that others may feel the same as we do upon being deceived. In addition, there is always an element of risk involved in lying. One’s lie may be discovered. The deceiver must, therefore, be forever cautious to keep a record of falsehoods and, as time passes, is often forced to explain and rationalize with more and more lies. It is said that liars must have excellent memories, for once caught, their credibility is forever in question.

Honesty can be a complicated affair. For example, who is to determine the triviality of a lie? Who is to be the judge as to the magnitude of an untruth? Is there really a lie that is psychologically healthy, that causes growth rather than hurts, and from which no one is adversely affected?

Most of us have known the pain that comes from deception, especially when we are deceived by those we love. Our personal security is based upon the assumption that the information given us by those we love will be honest. When that is shaken, or taken away it is not surprising that our lives can be temporarily (or even, for some, permanently) shattered. When our love is strong enough, we may be able to accept the situation, or rationalize that it was not done with evil intent or a desire to create pain. We may even cope and accept the untruth with human tolerance. We recognize the humanness of the person. We forgive.”

“It is realistic to believe that we shall have to deal with the conflict of honesty and deception for our entire relating lifetime. How can we expect total honesty with others when many of us engage in lying to ourselves? We must be willing to accept the fact that we may fall from truth from time to time. We must learn to accept these lapses as human and use them as learning experiences to reinforce more truthful behavior at a future time. But it seems to me that if we want our relationships to last and to grow, honesty and truth must be our inevitable goal”


–  Leo F. Buscaglia