I think the second excuse is more likely to be at the root of my problem with lying. “Just to seem a little better.” “Just to seem a little less bad.” “Just so other people don't know how bad (or merely mediocre, depending on the situation) the thing I did really was.” “Just so I don't have to injure my pride by letting everyone else know about my faults, by dropping the facade of goodness.”
I think I'm exaggerating a little. I think. I don't usually think along quite that extreme of lines when I'm lying. But the base sentiment is definitely there, whether weak or strong. I have trouble allowing people to see that I am less than they think I am.
Much like most other children, I lied as a child to avoid getting in trouble. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. The mere fact that my parents had sometimes observed the incident in question never kept my from lying, but it DID skew the percentages of me getting caught. Usually, if they knew or found out that I had lied to them, the punishment was worse than if I had told the truth, but
Interestingly, I was scrupulously honest in other ways. I was several times sent to get something from my parent's bedroom when I would find money left on my mother's dresser. For a long time, there was a little jar of change there, later there would be whatever she pulled out of her pocket, sometimes including $10 and $20 dollar bills. I never took any of it. But I lied to her all the time.
I lied about whether or not I had brushed my teeth. When she started not believing me and smelling my breath, I started wetting my toothbrush and brushing my teeth with no toothpaste. Why I would go to all the work of brushing my teeth, just so I could avoid brushing them, is not entirely clear. Honestly, it probably comes back to my pride and stubbornness: “you can't make me brush my teeth.”
I lied several times about how far I had gotten in a book. “No, I didn't read five more chapters, I was just finishing the same chapter, and was about to put it down and go to bed.” Once, when my mother asked my to show her my book to prove that I had not started a new chapter, I turned back a few pages so that she wouldn't see that I had just accidentally gone on to the next chapter. Unfortunately, my aunt was sitting behind me on the couch and saw me flip the pages, so she told Mom.
The habit stuck with me. The year that I was in 5th grade, I was in the local AWANA club. The book that the 5th graders work through has a section where you are supposed to talk about someone that you helped. I concocted a long story about how I, only ten years old, had rescued a boy from drowning because his mother could not swim and the lifeguard was too busy calming the mother to save the boy.
I had filled out that section of the book long before we got to that section. Between filling out the section and actually reaching that section, I stopped attending that club. Several years later, I began attending a different AWANA club, and I decided to try to finish all of the books that I had missed, so that I would have completed all of the books. When I got to that section, I realized how ridiculous that lie sounded. Besides, by that point, I had a true story that I could tell.
Even today, after several years of battling my lying tendencies, I often find myself...embellishing. I will tell a story about something that I did, or something that happened to me, and I will find myself adding things to make myself seem a little better.
It's still a struggle. I still find myself wanting to embellish things, to make myself look a little better. Sometimes it slips out, sometimes I can stop it. But it's a lot better than it used to be. With the grace of God, it will become better still. But the fight isn't over yet.