If you’re feeling guilty, puzzled, or ashamed because you sometimes lie, you’re only human.


We all lie at times. and most of us feel bad about it. Sure, there are times when not telling the whole truth is a good idea. You wouldn’t. for instance, tell a kid who’s just dressed himself for the first time that his pants and shirt don’t match. You’d stretch the truth a little so you wouldn’t hurt the kid’s feelings or destroy his sense of achievement. Sometimes we stretch the truth a little too far. though, and end up manipulating and deceiving people. In this tape, we’ll look at several different kinds of lies. and why people use them. We’ll talk about what these lies can do to you and your relationships with others. We’ll also suggest some things you can do to resist the urge to lie. , there’s the little “White Lie.” We often use it to avoid situations we’d rather not deal with. For example, if your Mom asks if you had a good time at a party you went to, you might say, “It was O.K..” to avoid a lengthy discussion about the miserable time you actually had. This kind of lie often keeps us from talking about our true feelings and sharing an important part of ourselves with others.

Another kind of lie is the boasting lie. Lying about how much money your Dad makes, or how far you got with your date, are boasting lies. People who use lies like these are trying to impress others in order to boost their egos. These lies rue usually pretty good signals that someone is feeling down about themselves, dying to cover up something, or simply looking for attention. And then there are the lies we tell because the truth will get us punished. For instance, we tell our parents we got in at 11 when it was actually 2. If telling the truth means getting grounded, it’s tempting and convenient to lie. This type of lie can really make us feel guilty though. We said before that lying affects both you and your relationships with others. Probably the biggest danger with lying is that it eats away at our sense of self-worth. Usually, the more we lie to others, the less honest we are with ourselves. We may be able to fool others with our lies some or even most of the time. But we’re never really able to believe our own lies. This makes us start doubting ourselves and our feelings of self-worth really trek a beating.

How does lying affect our relationships with others? If you’ve ever been caught telling a lie, you know that the person you lied to will begin to distrust you. This distrust can lead to resentment with the other person eventually questioning your value as a friend. Once you get distrust and resentment going against you, your chances of creating or keeping a good relationship are slim. Other people will avoid relationships with you just to protect themselves. O.K., we probably haven’t told you anything you didn’t already know. If you called this tape because you’re feeling some of these things, you may want to know what you can do when you’re tempted to lie.

If you’re using too many of these handy little “White Lies,” try figuring out why you use them — and then do something about that. Let’s say, for example, that you just finished talking on the phone to a new boyfriend or girlfriend, and your Mom asks who it was. You say — “Oh, nobody special.” She gives you a weird look and you know she doesn’t believe you. Maybe you lied because you resent her poking her nose into your phone calls. Could be it’s time you talk to your parents about your need for more privacy. Remember what we said in the beginning about sharing our true feelings.

How do you deal with a boasting lie? We said before that someone who boasts is usually lying to impress others. If people’s sense of self-worth could be built up in other ways. they wouldn’t feel the need to lie.

What can you do if you lie to avoid petting punished when you tell the truth? That’s a rough one, especially if the punishment seems unfair to you. Let’s say you stayed our too late because you were having a great time. Your parents are ready to ground you. You could get out of it with an excuse or you could tell the truth. If your parents don’t understand. you’ll have to face the consequences of your actions. That won’t be easy, but being responsible for what you do is an important part of growing up. Don’t cheat yourself by lying to avoid responsibility. You probably knew there would be a punishment if you broke curfew, so the choice was yours. This time take your medicine. Don’t cheat yourself and risk further problems with your parents by lying to avoid responsibility. We cannot guarantee no punishment because you were honest, but in the long run, it will be the better choice.

Everyone lies at one time or another. People lie because it’s convenient, because it boosts their egos, and because they want to avoid punishment. But telling lies can lower your sense of self worth. People you lie to will resent it and distrust you. We suggest that you fight the urge to tell those “White Lies” by finding out why you lied. and do something about that. Work on building your self-confidence if you find yourself boasting. If you’re lying to avoid punishment, by telling the truth. It’s a good way to learn how to accept responsibility, honesty is the best policy.

For additional support and resources please call our 24-hour Teen Hotline by dialing 2-1-1 or 954-567-8336 (TEEN.)

Teen Tapes is produced by the University of Wisconsin