Even Little White Lies Hurt Your Health

Those of you who follow all my writings, not just the obvious health advisories, will know I write a lot about mental and spiritual wellbeing.

Those who joined my New Thought Horizons program, for instance, were treated to a talk entitled “Honesty, Lies and Truth”, with a strong message about not telling lies.

Lies undermine one’s own mental health. Lies also compromise your relationship partner; he or she cannot respond to you properly, if you are dishonest about what you are thinking, feeling or doing. In fact it’s a great way to make them look foolish and get them to hate you: just run rings round them with lies, till the whole relationship falls apart!

Then you run around telling more lies about how it was all his or her fault, not your own. Next thing you know—you are just average or “normal”, because they are all doing it too.

I published some startling figures. For instance, 96% of women admit to telling lies often, even daily. That was a survey of women, by women and published in a woman’s journal, if you are wondering about a gender attack.

I sometimes wonder about the 4%: whether they are the honest women or hardcore liars who won’t admit the truth, even on a survey!

You may have seen this 2004 survey, for That’s Life Magazine.

Eighty-three per cent owned up to telling “big, life-changing lies”, with 13 per cent saying they did so frequently.

Half said that if they became pregnant by another man but wanted to stay with their partner, they would lie about the baby’s real father.

Forty-two per cent would lie about contraception in order to get pregnant, no matter the wishes of their partner.

I don’t have comparable figures for men. But I do know this: if women lie to their menfolk to such an extent, they can forget all chances of health and happiness. They are creating their own relationship hell. The men won’t come off too good either—they are being derailed and confused by what they suppose to women’s quirks or “female intuition”, not realizing it’s just downright manipulation.

The really important point that most people miss is that if you lie, you feel a little sick inside. You know it’s wrong. If you lie a lot, you feel very sick and may make yourself physically ill. So beware.

I don’t buy the usual white lies stuff. Mostly, what respondents to the survey claim was “protecting a person’s feelings” was actually covering up their own bad actions; having done things they thought hubby would get upset about.

In other words, that’s shifting blame to the husband and saying his upsets were the cause of the lying.

That’s totally false. How do I know this?

Because when I take couples and make them start telling the truth, it is incredibly healing, because the hurts go down dramatically, not up, as the liars claimed would happen. People who are frank and honest with each other do not have spats and run-ins all the time. The opposite, in fact; love blossoms and flourishes.

Now an interesting new study, again conducted by a woman, puts telling the truth on a par with fresh fruits and veggies and regular exercise: it’s a health issue, she says! Hooray!

Anita Kelly, a professor of psychology at Notre Dame, presented her research Saturday at the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. Aug 11th, 2012. She found that there were tangible mental and physical health benefits among those who significantly reduced their everyday lies.

In Dr Kelly’s study, half of 110 participants were told to stop telling major and minor (“white”) lies for 10 weeks, while the other half (the “control” group) was given no special instructions about lying. The participants ranged from ages 18 to 71 and hailed from both genders, several ethnicities and all income levels. All came to a laboratory each week to complete health and relationship questionnaires and to take a polygraph test assessing the number of major and minor lies they had told that week.

When those in the no-lie group told three fewer white lies than in other weeks, they complained less of headaches, sore throats, tenseness, anxiety and other problems than those in the control group.

According to Kelly, the link between lies and poor health is clear. You could say three or more fewer lies a week was as good as eating platefuls of fresh food and antioxidants! You see, lies are really internally stressful.

In addition to experiencing three or four fewer mental health and physical issues in a given week that coincided with less lying — compared to one or two fewer among control group members who also happened to lie less — participants reported that their close personal relationships had improved and their social interactions had gone more smoothly.

So what emerges is, the “white lies” thing is really just a cowardly excuse. Tell the truth and take the consequences. But be nice about it. It’s your fault if you have done something you feel uncomfortable to talk about it—not your partner’s!

How can you tell less lies?

Easy: just simply tell the truth about your daily accomplishments rather than exaggerate; respond to a troubling question with another question to distract the person from your problem area; and stop making false excuses for running late or failing to finish tasks.

Those are the strategies the study participants came up with.

[SOURCE: Aug. 4, 2012, presentation, American Psychological Association annual meeting, Orlando, Fla.]

11 thoughts on “Even Little White Lies Hurt Your Health

  1. The truth is very important, when you discover that people have lied to you, its like a huge form of dissing you, it feels like an insult, and yet lies are told as if they are the truth. Its also sad, because you may want to tell the truth, but , because the person you know cannot take it, even though you mean well, you can be forced to tell what we call a white lie.
    I think when also people can string you along, so you cannot make a decision , unless they are honest, there are so many angles to the truth, but I think children should be taught about truth in school from a young age, and how lieing can be so destructive.

  2. As it says in the Bible “know the truth and the truth will set you free” Its very liberating to tell the truth so the you won’t be going around carrying any baggage!!!

  3. I was married to a narcissist for 22 years. We had 4 children together. Our marriage was based upon her lying that she was 100% committed to improving herself. It took me years to see that she never had any intent to improve herself and is a sociopath.

    I learned early that she and truth are not friends, truth is terrible and offensive to her. Our children all learned to be liars because you just don’t dare tell mommy the truth.

    Telling her the truth would send her to the emergency room and drain the bank account. She would be ill in bed for two weeks and would threaten suicide everyday.

    We all learned to tell her just what she wanted to hear. Now that we are divorced I don’t mind being truthful and quite blunt about it too. Nothing offends her like truth.

  4. I have a sis who i think is a narissist social path also . Almost every word that comes out of her mouth is a lie . If you tell her the truth or a few hoem truths she wont let up on it has to pick it to pieces until she can turn it around to suit her . I love her but am at my wits end as she twists things around all the time . How does one handle a person liek this ? Like even when she got sick she wanted me take responsibility for her being sick ? Doesnt make sense as she helped at my late ma’s and of course soem stuff had rat poop in it [ i read after 3 days rat poop doesnt cause oen to have e coli ] she claims she got e coli in her blood and has to take antiboditcs the rest of her life ? Yet she has had kidney stones and bladder infection for liek 3 or 4 months and was sick then plus when she uses the bathroom she doesnt wash her hands with soap and she wipes from the front not back . I think she is lying and got the e coli in her blood stream via bladder infection as i have not caught anything and i was working more then her . Yet i dont know what is true what isnt as she lies all the time . Any suggestions and i have never heard of any one taking antobodics for the rest of ones life as dont they become ineffective ?

  5. The participants’ suggestions examplifies American society today.

    Hiding from the truth and its responsibilities – “respond to a troubling question with another question to distract the person from your problem area” This has become common practice , unfortunately, with politicans, execs, anyone in power…..

  6. Some years ago I was talking with a 45 year old Indian from the Middle East. He’d started life with little money and had driven taxi’s, cleaned hotel rooms and so on just to break even. When I spoke with him, he’d become of the richest men in the Middle East, performing significant amounts of charity work. He told me that until a few years before, he’d been a heavy drinker, smoker and gambler but had managed to give them all up quite easily. The hardest thing he’d ever achieved was to give up lying. Not just the big lies, but ALL lies. Stopping the big lies, he said, were simple. Until he started the exercise he didn’t realise how crippling those little white lies had become – or quite how many of them he was telling each day!
    A year later we met up in London again and I remarked how much healthier he was looking. He told me that his long term diabetes had become so much easier to manage than ever before and acknowledged the possible connection.

  7. We live in a world of lies and half truths where even those we respect lie to get their way. If one watches TV they are subjected to many lies one after the other every 10 minutes. Even the supreme court claims it is legal to lie. It is imposible to know when a business is lying to us in their ads. No matter what they are selling it is the best, incredible and saves you money. The worst offenders are the political ads that have no bounds. Lying has become so common that it is the norm.

  8. When you lie to someone, they end up relating to someone but it isn’t even you. How can you then count on any loyalty from them? Lying to someone makes it easier for them to walk away from you when the truth comes out, because they don’t even know who you are. The one thing people can always count on–the truth ALWAYS comes out, and then it’s shouted from the rooftops. Lying is also one of the cruelest things to do to another person, because when the truth comes out, that person also ends up suffering a death of someone who never even existed. You will encounter a karma that will come back to you greatly multiplied when you lie. Choose your words wisely–they are an investment you make in your life.

  9. I would be really interested in the results of a survey taken of men and how often they lie, as this reports comes across as very one-sided. As a woman, I have experienced most men as liars: they say they are single when they are married; they lie about their extra-marital affairs; they tell women they care in order to persuade them to have sex; they lie to their buddies about who and how often they have sex. They lie to make themselves look important. Lies about “the one that got away” are so commonplace, it has become a joke. And these are just the lies of commission. I wonder if lies of omission affect us the same way.
    A few years back, without knowing the impact on my health, I decided I would strive to always be truthful. I don’t always succeed, but what I have also started doing is acknowledging, apologizing and correcting even unintentional lies, e.g. if I say something is so and then find out it isn’t. I did this because I wanted the peace of a clear conscience. It is good to know the discipline will also result in a clean(er) bill of health.

    • Well the examples of men’s lies you gave Mindy are mostly mild and unhurtful.
      The HUGE lies that women confessed to included lying about being pregnant by another man or about using contraceptives.
      I’m pleased to see you are now in the 4%.
      Unfortunately, we just don’t have a survey for men.
      But men cannot lie to their partners about who is the “real” father, surely?
      Our supposed dishonesty is simply not in the same dangerous league as women’s naughties.
      Your final comment: mistakes are not lies, of course, and usually easily corrected without shame.
      [one of the men who studiously avoids lying]

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