Lying to Yourself: so Easy

By | October 8, 2020

[October 8, 2020]  Two days ago, I wrote about common leader mistakes and listed lying to yourself at the top.  Why I did so is simple; when we lie to ourselves, we put ourselves on a path to ruin and destruction.  To lie to others is easy; to lie to ourselves is even easier.

Jerry, an acquaintance of mine many years ago, was serving with me as a company commander.  We had different Infantry companies in the same battalion.  He was well-liked, but there was something we could not figure out about him.  It turned out that he had falsified his college degree.  When the falsehood was discovered, he was removed from the U.S. military within a couple of days.  It was sad to see a man so passionately deny reality.  He had not finished his degree but had convinced himself that he had done so.

Psychologists have studied this intellectual phenomenon for at least a dozen centuries; none have come up with a solution to stop it.  I will not go into these studies, but I will point out that these psychologists and philosophers see lying partly as a survival mechanism.  Why, they ask, tell the truth, and get yourself hurt or killed, when you can lie and get away.

My focus today is what lying to yourself does to that person lying.

  1. Lying to yourself corrupts one’s ability to interact honestly with others.  Humans are, by our nature, social animals.  We desperately need others, and we need their approval, love, and soft challenges to keep us happy and healthy.  Lying to ourselves projects onto others only what we want to see and prevents us from getting a good understanding of others, their thinking, and the outward reality.  We become biased against our social humanness in a sinister way.
  2. Lying to yourself destroys relationships. Lies destroy trust.  Lying to yourself is a form of deceit, and others are good at discovering those lies.  Lying to others is one thing, and something people will throw up barriers against, but lying to yourself is insidious and will paint you as untrustworthy, dishonest, and as a fraud.  No one who is a fraud can be likable.
  3. Lying to yourself is self-perpetuating. The more we lie to ourselves, the easier it is to continue to do so.  The result is an individual that is built upon falsehoods.  Like a house of cards, the tragic collapse is only a matter of time and circumstance.  When that occurs – which it often does under social pressure – the person doing the lying to themselves will experience the greatest destruction.

Jerry was just one example of someone who can lie to themselves.  It takes a long time to build up lies within ourselves and then not do anything about them.  There is a weakness in all of us where lying can take hold and control us.  The only way for a successful future is to stop lying in its tracks.  Of course, that isn’t easy, but we all must dedicate the effort to do it.


Note: Here is a good article that lays out a convincing case against self deception:

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

20 thoughts on “Lying to Yourself: so Easy

  1. Anita

    I guess most people would not know that lying actually corrupts their won relationships with others. Too bad. The outcome is not good.

  2. Ed Berkmeister

    Hey guys, it sure has been an interesting week with the VP debates, more virus-inspired shutdowns, riots-looting-murder by antifa, etc. All the politicians are doing is finger pointing. Shows a lack of maturity. Oh, I forgot the pandering to certain racial minorities. And I thought politicians had a bad rap earlier. Ha Ha.

    1. Lynn Pitts

      You got that right, Ed. What are we to do about it? Pick the least evil of the bunch? Not good choices. We need to start NOW encouraging people to take the high road and tell the truth. Tell the truth even when it hurts.

  3. Willie Shrumburger

    Lying is easy, telling the truth is hard. Lying is immaturity, the truth (unvarnished) is about courage. Which do we appreciate the most? We don’t like liars regardless of whether they lie to us or to themselves. But recently, in America, I’m no longer sure.

  4. Greg Heyman

    Gen. Satterfield, if you could elaborate on #1 where you say lying to one’s self corrupts our ability to interact with others, I would appreciate it. This is important. IMO, I think it means that this “corruption” destroys social bonds and that is, partially, the reason it is so bad. Just my thinking.

    1. Valkerie

      Excellent comment, Greg. I think you’ve hit onto something here. People must have social bonds. Why? We are social creatures because those that are not will not survive or at least they will have no children and thus the end of their genetic line.

      1. Newtown Manager

        Doesn’t Dr. Jordan Peterson lecture about this very thing? I’m not sure but if someone could look into it, I would be appreciative. Thanks all for an excellent discussion this morning on a critical topic for leaders.

    1. José Luis Rodriguez

      Sadly we don’t teach young people not to lie anymore. We encourage them to lie, cheat, steal, and then blame it on others. This is, in part, a trend coming from disrespecting religion and the nuclear family.

  5. Eric Coda

    Quotable quote, “The only way for a successful future is to stop lying in its tracks. Of course, that isn’t easy, but we all must dedicate the effort to do it.” Lying however is too rewarding and in our society today we see politicians lying and getting ahead. Lead by example, not by the lie.

  6. Max Foster

    Anyone see the debates? Good one. I wish others followed the format. The moderator was much better than Chris Wallace. I guess USA Today got the message that being biased against the President didn’t go over well with the people of the United States (nor should it, regardless of political party). I have to say Chris Wallace from FoxNews is a political hack for the Democrat Party and should be called out for his bias (FAKE NEWS WALLACE). I didn’t write this before but it was so obvious. Today, I’ll be he’s regretting what he did but I’m also sure he is lying to himself and believes he did a great job.

    1. Forrest Gump

      Good points Max. I saw the debate and read a few commentaries. All seem to show that Pence was gracious and steady and the Harris was a bit too nervous and tended to push a few lies about the Trump Pence team. 👍

    2. JT Patterson

      Yes, both participants were sharp and both landed plenty of blows. Both talked over the moderator, but not over each other. Neither was very obnoxious. Only one was relatively honest.

  7. Randy Goodman

    After watching last night’s VP debates, I can see bald face lying and what it does to others as well. Kamala Harris lied boldly about Pres Trump disrespecting American military members. Lies all.

    1. Janna Faulkner

      But you have to admit there debate was at least a real debate with issues on the floor for discussion. Yet, I haven’t figured out yet if Harris is lying to herself and thus so convincing or she just spouts the Democrat Party trash to get elected. Her desire for power is scary.

      1. Yusaf from Texas

        I too watched the debates and like it, unlike between Pres Trump and ex-VP Biden. The latter was like watching a professional boxer take on a High School drop out.

    2. Tom Bushmaster

      K. Harris did boldly lie and she will pay a price for that. The others – some call lies – were clear distortions of reality. I enjoyed the debate. Pence won, hands down.


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