“The truth will set you free.” – John 8:32
A couple weeks ago, I pointed out to a therapy client that some of the things they were telling me weren’t adding up. I just… didn’t believe them.
Their response? “Why would I come to therapy to lie?”
Reasons Why People Lie
- To spare others’ feelings or protect them
- They are ashamed of the truth
- They are more afraid of the consequences of telling the truth than the consequences of lying
- Lying is the only way to maintain their addictions
- Telling the truth would make them vulnerable
- Honesty is not one of their values
- They’re bored
- To see how much they can get away with
- To get a desired reaction from someone (shock, attention, admiration, etc.)
- Out of habit
- They have convinced themselves the lies are true
- Their web of lies has gotten so big, that they believe it is easier to continue to weave it than to come clean
Everyone has lied about something. When lying becomes a pattern, though, a ‘web’ or a ‘house of cards’ is created that is unsustainable. When the truth comes out, relationships, careers, and one’s integrity (among other things) can be destroyed.
Just as in every other relationship, a therapeutic relationship is built upon trust. Lying in therapy can make treatment completely ineffective. Which brings us back to my client’s question:
“Why would I come to therapy to lie?”
One might think that people would be more likely to be honest with their therapists than with others. Therapists need to comply with confidentiality by law, and good therapists approach therapy from a supportive, non-judgmental stance as much as possible.
However, the unfortunate truth is that many people have had bad, even re-traumatizing experiences with therapists. Or (particularly in community mental health settings) their therapists have left so many times that they are hesitant to create a relationship with someone new, just to have them leave again in a year or two. Lying creates what feels like a safe, emotional buffer for clients who want to avoid re-traumatization.
Also, many people admire their therapists, and feel ashamed of the truth. People may not be ready to face the truth themselves, or to change or progress.
Now, here’s my pitch for why people should tell the truth.
Reasons Why People Should Tell the Truth
- It will strengthen their sense of self and integrity
- It will deepen relationships
- After doing so, they will feel relief or a ‘weight off their chest’
- It will help them heal
- It will allow them to get help
- It will allow them to repent and move on
- It will lead to change and personal growth
- It will help others feel less alone
- It will embolden others to be truthful
- Doing so may actually have positive consequences
- Others will admire their bravery
- Honesty is a widely held value across many cultures and religions
- It feels terrible when one discovers they have been lied to, and people do not want to inflict that feeling on their loved ones
- Most lies are ultimately uncovered. The sooner you tell the truth, the easier relationships are to repair, and some negative consequences may even be avoided
Can you think of any more reasons to tell the truth? Have you had an experience in which the truth set you free? Let me know in the comments. As always, have a mindful Monday.