Honestly: Study shows that lying is harmful to your health
I was 6 years old when I got caught in a terrible lie. I had not only stolen a small figurine of a dog that belonged to someone else, I had lied about doing it. I was punished, had to return the dog statue and apologize to the victim of my crime. I was humiliated and felt terrible about myself. The experience has never left me; instead it helped shape some of my very basic ideas about right and wrong and about the repercussions of lying.
We live in a culture saturated in dishonesty. Research reveals that Americans, on average, tell about 11 lies per week. Many believe that lying is a necessary part of everyday life, yet we expect honesty in our relations with others and are often disappointed when we find out we’ve been lied to. Yet a sense of honesty between human beings is essential to our existence and is rated as one of the most positive of all human traits.
Reading about the detrimental effects of lying documented in a recent University of Notre Dame study entitled “The Science of Honesty” was no shocker. I’ve always believed that lying does something to one’s overall mental and physical health, that a little bit of your spirit rots away with every lie uttered. Call it my belief in karma, but I feel that speaking an untruth purposefully can open one up to increased negative outcomes. Does anyone disagree with that?
What is a “lie,” anyway? The definition used in the Notre Dame study contends that the speaker purposely tries to deceive the listener and knows that the content of what they are saying is false.
More than 100 individuals participated in the 10-week study. Half were asked to stop telling lies altogether and were only able to:
- Omit truths
- Refuse to answer questions
- Keep secrets
They weren’t able to make any statements that were knowingly false. The other half of the group was not given those instructions. Both the control group and the “no lie” group had to report to a lab every week, take a polygraph test and submit information on what type of lies, if any, they’d told.
After the data had been collected and crunched, members of the “no lie” group reported improvements in their physical and mental health and in their personal interactions and relationships with others. Researchers were able to draw clear connections between lying, health and well-being, such as:
- Telling fewer lies leads to an improved idea of self.
- Conscious efforts to stop lying can increase health benefits.
- Building trust by not violating it improved relationships and subsequently, health.
I’d be lying to you if I said it didn’t sound corny, but the results of this study reinforce what I’ve always believed: Lying begets further harm. So, if you’re looking at ways to feel better on many different levels, take a close look at the things you say and how you say them, otherwise, you could be making yourself sick!
Photo credit: mnwatts