To Lie is to Kill Your Dignity

By | August 21, 2019

[August 21, 2019]  It was a suggestion from my daughter that I write another article about what happens when leaders lie.  Like me, she too is keenly conscious of leaders who lie.  She said something recently that reminded me of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

“By a lie, a man… annihilates his dignity as a man” – Immanuel Kant, German philosopher

My daughter told me that when her leaders lie to her (or to anyone in her unit), “they’re killing our dignity.”  I thought her comment was rather insightful and put in such a way that it made me immediately think how lying is a form of betrayal.  Lying will kill your dignity faster than just about any behavior.

Humans are programmed to detect lying.  I believe this deeply.  I’m not sure if this is something we learned growing up or if it is an inborn trait – or both – but what I do know is that most people can easily spot a lie when they hear it.

The biggest problem I see when leaders lie is that the lie always has serious, negative consequences.  Just the other day, for example, several U.S. presidential candidates lied about an incident in 2014 that led to destructive riots in Ferguson, Missouri.  Elizabeth Warren, one of the leading candidates, said that “[Michael] Brown was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri …”1  This is, of course, a lie.2 The results are predictable and bad: more divisiveness and violence.

When leaders lie, they lower their character; breaking the bonds of trust and confidence that people rightly expect to have in that leader.  Leaders who lie are saying to us that they do not believe we can think or make good, moral decisions.  When we are lied to, we are viewed as somehow less than human, something to be stepped on and ignored.  In other words, lying is the killer of our dignity.

Lies will follow you forever; whether in your mind or across the memories of those who are lied to.  In earlier articles, I wrote that when leaders lie, they will forever be judged as untrustworthy.  And that lie will follow them forever.  There’s a quote by John in the Bible, that “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.3  For those who are truth-tellers, only they fully understand the strength of this advice.


  2. Elizabeth Warren is also the politician who lied about her American Indian ancestry multiple times in the past and used it as leverage for better-paying, pretigeous jobs.
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

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

22 thoughts on “To Lie is to Kill Your Dignity

  1. Mikka Solarno

    I too have seen many leaders fall from grace because they couldn’t help themselves and lied. A lie will harm you no matter how small.

    1. Jake Tapper, Jr.

      Good point Mikka. I agree. Too bad some think they have to lie to get ahead or to succeed in their mission.

  2. Gil Johnson

    I think you are trying to become a philosopher, Gen. Satterfield. Ha Ha. But, seriously, keep up the good work and keep writing your daily blog. It gives me considerable pleasure to be forced to think differently. Oh, my dog sits beside me as I read my daily morning readings.

  3. Wesley Brown

    Gen. Satterfield, you hit another home run with this blog post. Lying is terrible. It destroys the long-term person for a brief, short term gain.

    1. Albert Ayer

      Agreed. “If only” we were more mature and willing to admit our mistakes, lying would be less of an issue. Maybe it’s modern “culture.” Maybe it’s the pressure of our families, jobs, and friends. Maybe it’s ….. well just fill in the blank. We use excuses all the time to lie and for our own mental health, we should stop doing so now!

  4. Willie Shrumburger

    Great article, very enjoyable. Thank you Gen. Satterfield.

  5. Shawn C. Stolarz

    Betrayal is at the bottom of Dante’s sins. It was the worse. Lying is what gets you there faster than any other way of betraying other people.

    1. Andrew Dooley

      Well said Shawn. It’s been a long time since I read Dante’s Inferno.

  6. Nick Lighthouse

    My mother always said to keep my mouth zipped and my ears open. That way, I was less likely to stick my foot into my mouth when talking. I’ve seen many people talk about things they know little about and, of course, the lie by making it appear they know more than they really know.

  7. Army Captain

    Yes, lying does destroy your dignity. I’ve seen it occur far too often.

      1. Ronny Fisher

        Good, remind them about this regularly. Parents teach kids to lie. They should be careful about doing so.

      2. The Kid 1945

        Good! Keep telling them and never let them forget.

    1. Doc Blackshear

      There are many ways to lose your dignity that we know about; like getting falling-down drunk at a party or taking your clothes off and running around town. 🙂 But lying is the worst way to lose your dignity because you will have a long road to travel to get it back.

  8. Bill Sanders, Jr.

    Most people can easily detect a lie. What that means is that they will no longer TRUST you! As a leader, the worst thing that can happen is that people lose trust in you. That is why few politicians have people that like them any more. They are rated right up there with used car salesmen. Both are stereotyped as liars.

  9. Max Foster

    An interesting take on “the big lie.” Lying is one of the most common problems with mankind. It is an affront to us as trusting social animals. Why people do it, is obvious but to make it part of our culture and encourage it is another problem that we should address openly and very publicly.

    1. Joe Omerrod

      Well said, Max. I too am concerned that leaders are encouraging people to lie and that it is okay to do so. They do this by showing them by example. They say it’s okay as long as the results they want are accomplished. Sad day for the West.

    2. Mike Baker

      Good points here. For each of us, as good men, our goal should be to stop any lying. We should be diplomatic which means sometimes we have to keep our mouths shut.

    3. JT Patterson

      More folks need to be reading this type of back and forth conversation on how to be a better person and great leader. Good job, Max. Well thought through comment.

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