Why We Lie

I was talking to a friend earlier today, and I asked him if he was watching the show “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” tonight.  He replied, “No, I’ve only seen one or two episodes.”  I didn’t mean to call him on his bs, but I quickly correct him and told him that the first episode of the show was coming on tonight for the first time.  He backtracked and said, “Oh I must have been thinking of something else.”

He could’ve been telling the truth there except for one thing.  I know that I do this sort of thing all the time.  When someone asks me if I’ve heard of something, or seen a show or classic movie, or heard some popular band.  My impulse is to be hip, and in the loop by pretending that I know exactly what they are talking about, regardless if I actually do.  What is this impulse?

It’s harmless, of course.  Telling someone that you’ve seen Scarface when you haven’t hardly matters.  It might hurt your credibility when discovered, but not much.  We all understand this impulse.

I am reminded of another friend once who was chiding his friend for having never seen The Godfather movies.  When asked what they were about, my friend said he also had never seen them.  It was peculiar.

Another funny scenario I am reminded of is the numerous times I’ve been watching a movie and some punchline will get played.  Everyone in the theater laughs and I didn’t get the joke or didn’t hear it, but I laugh anyways.  My friend leans over quietly to me and says, “I didn’t get it, what was so funny.”  I’m caught off guard. “I don’t know,” I say.  It’s so silly.

Again, these are harmless lies.  But why?  I think we have a need to be “in the know” and “on top of things”.  Whether we know it or not, we value the opinions of others highly.  We don’t want to be the one guy in the room who didn’t get the joke, or can’t see the magic eye illusion.  Being the 1/10 dentists that didn’t recommend a brand of toothpaste kind of scares us.

We live in a society where the majority rules, and the majority is often right on things.  If we’re confused, we’re prone to just play along and go with the flow rather than risk being the odd man out.

I think this contributes to a lot of religious pressure.  For sure there is a lot of pressure directly from others to think, feel, or believe a certain way, but there’s also a lot of internal pressure to not be different.  This is why Christian comedian, Tim Hawkins get laughs making fun of “Christian hand signals”.

This is also why we hear an abundance of the same stereotypical phrases.

I hope you enjoyed this blogpost.  I don’t really have a solution to this problem except that it’s okay to be honest.  It’s okay to have never seen scarface or to have to think about what you’re going to say before you say it.  You can tell people you read this blogpost and didn’t lie about it!

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