Liar, Liar, Guilt on Fire: Why Guilty Feelings Make You Lie About Silly Things

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The joke around my office is that I become a crazy person during the season of Lent because I give up my morning Mountain Dew fix. Since the caffeine withdrawal was too much to handle, I decided to give up something else for Lent last year. 

But when my coworker teased me, joking about how the next few weeks were going to be torturous for me, I made a sad face and said, “I know, don’t be mean about it!”

So for 40 days, I poured Mountain Dew in a water bottle every morning to bring to work. I even snuck cans in my jacket pockets so that whenever my coworker went to the bathroom, I could replenish my supply.

Why on earth did I lie about something so stupid?

Because the idea of correcting my coworker and taking away the fun of teasing me made me feel guilty.

Ridiculous, right?

Guilt has a way of making us lie about the silliest things. What we fail to realize is that the truth is actually easier, and makes a lot more sense, than the crazy lies our guilt comes up with. But the more frequently we allow ourselves to feel guilty, the more we condition ourselves to tell little, ridiculous lies.

Here are some of the reasons why guilt makes us lie about silly things.

You Don’t Want to Be a Bother

You ever sit at an elegant table setting at like a wedding reception or a fancy restaurant and drool through your pores over the last bread roll in the basket? No? Just me?

Anyhoo, it used to be that whenever there was only one roll left, I would spend WAAAAAAY too much time trying to work up the courage to ask for someone to pass it my way. And it never failed: I’d wait too long, someone else would ask if anyone wanted it, and I’d politely respond with, “No, I’m good, thanks…” Internally, I’d be screaming, “I WILL DESTROY EVERYTHING YOU HAVE EVER LOVED!”

For some reason, I’d let myself feel guilty about even asking for the last roll. Who was I to deserve something so magnificent over the rest of these ingrates – er, I mean, people? Not to mention I might be interrupting their conversation or taking away their only supply of food for the day. What if they sprained their wrist while handing me the basket…

So I’d lie. I didn’t want to be a bother. It wasn’t until I said it out loud that I realized just how silly it really was. It had made so much sense in my head.

Today, I will openly fight to the death for that last dinner roll. (Jk… maybe.)

You’re Afraid You’ll Hurt Their Feelings

When I was little, I pretended to like black jelly beans merely for the shock factor. It was like eating an entire jalapeno pepper and saying it doesn’t burn hotter than hell. (Psshhh, they don’t, I can eat those things all. Damn. Day. BRING IT.) 

It was a harmless fib; it wasn’t like we bought giant bags of jelly beans that were all black. I would simply find the one black jelly bean in the bag, chew it like a champ, and smile all smugly as I forced it down.

But then someone told my grandma that I liked black jelly beans…

Long story short, I was basically pooping black jelly beans throughout the year, trying to finish up the massive supply my grandma gave me. I believe I started sneaking what was left out to the trash because I couldn’t take it anymore. And I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by telling her I actually didn’t like black jelly beans that much (or at all).

Thank the Maker, my grandma eventually forgot about my black jelly bean “obsession” and I never have to see another black jelly bean again (except in my nightmares). 

It’s Easier to Lie

I didn’t grow boobs until I was like 23, so high school and college were hell for my self-esteem. I was one of those girls who would research natural ways to “boost my bust.” Over the course of my research, I read somewhere that ingesting saw palmetto could help grow breast tissue. (I discovered later that it’s primarily used to support prostate and urinary health…)

Anyhoo, I was still living at home at the time, so it wasn’t like I could just say, “Hey mom, I’m running to the pharmacy for some boob pills, BRB!” And even if I could come up with a good excuse, there was no way at least one of my eight siblings wouldn’t see the saw palmetto bottle through the plastic bag and tell my parents I was a druggy. 

So naive, flat-chested me thought I could get away with ordering saw palmetto pills through Amazon…

Little did I know that the package they came in would say “Rx” in large letters on it.

“Anna, did you order pills from Amazon?” my mom called up to my room when the package arrived.

Shit. “Uh, no? I ordered a textbook for one of my college classes… Amazon must have made a mistake?”

“Uh oh, that’s not good. See, I just thought maybe you bought some vitamins.”

Damn, I should have used that.

“Open the package, let’s see what they accidentally sent you!”

I acted all confused and just as surprised as my mom to find the saw palmetto pills. She told me to request a full refund from Amazon and to write a full-on complaint. I said I would, and when she demanded to read the order confirmation email for the original “textbook” order, I claimed to have accidentally deleted it. 

In my mind, it was easier to lie than to explain that I had purchased the prostate pills for my boobs. My mom’s desire for justice made me feel guilty; I didn’t want to knock her down from her outrage high, so I kept lying rather than make her feel bad for making such a fuss over nothing.

The ordeal was so embarrassing, I ended up tossing the pills anyway. (And I’m a B cup now anyway, hurray!)

You Don’t Want to Ruin Expectations

I have a problem with PDA. It’s an issue I’ve always had in my romantic relationships. One year, as a birthday present, my boyfriend at the time decided to draw me a picture. The drawing itself was well done. The subject matter, however…

It was a drawing of the two of us kissing.

When he revealed the picture to me, my boyfriend had a huge smile on his face, excited to see my reaction. He expected me to love it. I didn’t want to disappoint him, so I masked my true feelings about it…

…and he made me hang it up right above my bed.

I felt so uncomfortable every time I looked at that picture. But my guilt wouldn’t let me ruin my boyfriend’s expectation that I would love it.

Even though I am no longer dating that guy, that damn picture is still in the back of my closet somewhere.

Your Instinct is to Say What You Think They Want to Hear

Guilt conditions your instincts to respond with whatever you think people want you to say or do. They say “jump,” so you jump, even though your leg may be broken, you have no desire to jump, or you have some questions about why they want you to jump in the first place. By the time you catch yourself, you find you are already in too deep lying about something incredibly silly.

If you find that you’re responding too quickly to people out of guilt, start conditioning yourself to take a moment before reacting. Consciously think before you speak. Ask yourself, “How do I REALLY feel about this?” Otherwise, you’ll be crying over bread, pooping black jelly beans, sending fake boob pill complaints, or uncomfortably staring at a drawing you hate every night.

Your bacon deserves better than that.

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