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Monday, January 16, 2012

Why We Trust Liars and How Not To

First, it needs to be said: we don’t trust all people or, for that matter, all people we know that are known to lie. But there are times when we want to believe them, or need to, and so then we do. It may not always end well.

Trusting someone who may be lying:

1. Is often easier and less confrontational when we don’t have the energy or time for conflict. We need to bear in mind, though, that we are most vulnerable when we lack energy and time. Sometimes it’s better to defer trust for calm reflection.

2. May protect us, ourselves, as we pretend that decisions made to go forward with a particular person years ago were not as bad as they are. The truth is we are kidding no one. An alliance with someone known for their dishonesty will hurt us eventually. It is better for us to call them on it and be bold enough to reconsider our position.

3. Is easier when there are no direct or indirect consequences for taking the cowardly avenue; pleasant denial of the facts elicits trust. It says, “What you are doing—however wrong it may be—is okay.” This is not a good direction to head for. It is best to turn around and be straight.

4. Might be about forgetting the sting in the tail of betrayal in opening ourselves to trust someone unworthy of such grace. We are better advised to keep our memories on a short leash, without being limited for vision of people demonstrating integrity.

5. Is explained because we can’t harm a fly and we like to think others can’t or won’t either. We could call it naivety, but it is just as much a pure nature that is taken advantage of. Sometimes it’s best to rely, regarding important decisions, on a trusted wise adviser; someone objective and with a heart for our advocacy.

6. Could be about deciding to be as ‘cool’ as they are, because in some situations it is considered just, funny, or appropriate to lie. We ought to be warned, however; we join forces in covenants of bluff knowing fully well it’s wrong. Folly is the trust that ignores the consequences, found by hindsight, in blatant view. It will not end well.

7. Could be our only choice if we suspect something might be wrong but cannot prove it. Many significant decisions might be considered in such circumstances, but again it is better to delay if at all possible. Gut feelings should be trusted.


Lying destroys relationships and leaves people hurt every day. Nobody wants to be betrayed and our lives move better when we trust people. Wisdom commends us to trust wisely and, when we do, without condition. There is, however, no obligation to trust dishonest people.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

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