“The Ways We Lie” by Stephanie Ericsson


Nowadays people are so obsessed with lies and use lies to cover their follies and weaknesses. Some lies are harmless and do not badly affect others. Most of the people tell lies to escape from silly problems. The lies that are told for noble causes are to be neglected because the reason behind the intension to tell that is valid. But most of the people tell lies for mere pleasure. The essay, “The Ways We Lie”, by Stephanie Ericsson analysis various types of lies told by people in their day-to-day life. Even though the author deals with the various kinds of lies, the motivation behind this habit is not adequately evaluated in this essay. Stephanie Ericsson points out that once she tried to keep away from lies but it was impossible for her. She identifies the kinds of lies we all tell at one time or another. It is unavoidable and sometimes beneficial to us. She further goes on to justify the reason behind the habit of telling lies.

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Main body

The essay is aimed on educated and general audience because the theme and tone of the essay is applicable to all. The essay is published in the Utne Reader for November/December 1992. ‘Companion Through the Darkness: Inner Dialogues on Grief’, is another book by Stephanie Ericsson which was published in 1993.She realized that telling truth for all the time is impossible as telling a lie for no reason has become part of everyone’s life.“ I once tried going a whole week without telling a lie, and it was paralyzing. I discovered that telling the truth all the time is nearly impossible. It means living with some serious consequences.” (Ericsson). When one tries to live without lies, he/she must be ready to face serious consequences of the same. To be extreme truthful is to face extreme serious situations in life. So, a mixture of truth and lie is the possible way for an average individual. One needs to grasp the essential difference between harmless and harmful lies; most of the lies that people use in day to day life is harmless. The motivation behind most of the lies is not to cheat others but to have a temporary escape from trivial situations. It is better to avoid lies that affect ones reputation in the society. This work explores the effectiveness and relevance of the theme selected for the essay. It further goes on to explore the evidence given by the author, effect of lying in daily life, and effectiveness of the argument in favour of lying. The logic behind the work is simple, but is based on the basic instinct of all human beings, i.e. the habit of lying. The emotion revealed by the author is irony, but not much serious. But it is able to touch the very heart of the reader. The theme selected and the personal experiences included reveal the credibility of the author. Thesis statement:-Stephanie Ericsson categorises the lies into so many categories: however, she fails to identify and analyse the hidden reasons behind telling lies. This creates a negative effect on the reader.

One’s claims for the lies are to be substantiated with evidences and the author rightly shows evidences to prove the habit of lying. Most types of lies that one uses in one’s daily life, like the white lie, ignoring plain facts, deflecting, omissions etc are discussed (described), but the reason behind the same is not revealed. Stephanie Ericsson uses the words like ‘they say’ and ‘I say’ to divide the idea of lying between her personal experience and the experience by others. The reader can easily identify the person behind idea and experience. It is evident that the seriousness of the situation forces an individual to tell lies. When one considers the seriousness of a lie, or its effect, the situation which forced the individual to do so must be considered. However, the article fails to unearth the hidden reasons behind lies: “She, basically, gave various lies that people tell on a regular basis. By not explaining why people lie has a negative affect on the reader and her essay. She did not completely explain her logic and arguments.” (Ericsson). So this creates a negative effect on the reader about the motives of lies. Moreover, the author is unable to explain her logic behind her argument and as such the article falls short of substantiation of the arguments dealt with. For example, the same lie that is used in different situations creates different effects. This is not specified in the essay even though it is important.

The essay is one sided because only the effect of lies is described but the situation and the reason behind each lie is discarded. This breaks the uniformity of ideas that are used in the essay. For example, the author points out various types of lies that are used by husband and wife, but the motivation behind them is ignored. Simple description of the types of lies may not create a positive effect on the reader. The author points out that lies are used to escape from trivial situations. But the author herself considers that, to use lies in certain situations is not dishonest. The reason that is given to clarify this point of view is that these types of lies are meant not to hurt others but to escape from silly problems. From the beginning itself, the readers can identify that the author is not against telling lies. If the author is against telling lies, readers can expect ideas against the abuse of lies.

The detailed description of lies does not help the reader to find out the hidden reason behind the habit of telling lies. But the author goes on describing various types of lies. Author says that the white lie is harmless and aiming to help others. Facades are lies that help people to pretend and sometimes they prove to be destructive. And it is similar to the next type of lie, i.e., ‘Ignoring plain facts’, which helps traitors to cover their face behind masks. For example, the author mentions the story of Father James Porter who was a sexual molester of little children. By ignoring the fact about James Porter, Church got indirectly involved in the issue. This was like an indirect co-operation from the side of church. Deflecting is another form of lie where it takes the form of refusal of responding and screaming out of frustration. Omission is another lie where the important topic is omitted and unimportant topic is focused with due importance. For example, the omission of Lilith from The Holy Bible is aimed to keep women weak. Stereotypes and clichés are used to close human mind and to separate them by categorizing them and generalizing them. Group think is a sort of lie which forces the individual to be loyal to the group and it helps the individual to ignore facts that are considered as unwanted. So one can see that Group think initiated the tendency to ignore basic facts and it is evident from this example of Japanese attack of Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941. The decision of the American forces to stay there ignoring the warning created the critical situation. The out and out lies are the lies that are easily confronted. Moreover, this may be in the form of an argument. Usually, children use this lie to confuse the elders. Dismissal is the slipperiest of all lies and this lie is capable to create damages on personality and reputation. This lie is rooted in mental disorder and it is serious. Delusion is the end of the lies that are described by the author. This lie helps the individual to see excuses as real facts. The reality behind this tendency is that human mind has the power to transform lies to truth. It is also a survival mechanism. The last two forms of lies that are discussed are related to mental disorders and they must be treated according to medical norms. The work helps the reader to know more about the seriousness of telling lies and its effect on individual. But it fails to justify the reason behind the tendency to tell lies. But it is evident that most of the people, whether they are urban or not, show the tendency to tell lies. This creates a negative effect on the reader. The purpose of the essay is to create awareness in the reader about various types of lies in order to give a correct idea of its influence on individuals. Author is in a conversational mood and is able to have a mutual understanding with the reader through the description of various types of lies which are familiar to all.

The counter arguments against the issue of telling lie is that it is a safety valve that protects the individual from emotional burst by telling silly lies. It can be seen that telling lies provide pleasure and relief to individuals who feel frustration. The society can ignore silly lies but the lies that are related to psychological problems must not be ignored and it must undergo proper medical treatment. The essay fails to address the issue adequately and also to provide remedial measures to avoid the tendency to tell lies.

The author tries to evaluate various types of lies that influence the individuals and their lives. Some consider telling lies as an emotional outlet. Some others consider it as a silly thing equal to conversation. Some others use lies to create problem to themselves and to others. The tendency to repeat lies is to be tackled with the help of medical science because it create problem in society.

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It is evident that the theme selected for the essay is general and applicable to the whole world. The essay is well worth because it helps the reader to have a broader outlook about lies and the effect of lies. The strength of the essay is that it is in a conversational mood and it helps the reader to grasp the content easily. The theme is simple and is closely connected to the day to day life of individuals. Whereas, the weakness of the essay is that it fail to verify the cause of this behaviour. The positive effect created by the use of a general topic nullifies the negative side of the essay. Her style is informal and she uses colloquial language and usages to justify her claim. The essay is based on the writer’s own experiences which possess a universal appeal. Humour keeps the free flow of idea without any interruption. For example, personal experiences on day to day life. The style of sentences used is simple and convincing and are not lengthy.For example, use of colloquial words and usages. The general organisation of the essay is loose but does not hinder the flow of ideas.


The essay, “The Ways We Lie”, by Stephanie Ericsson analysis various types of lies and their effects on the individual’s life. The author categorises the lies into categories but fails to analyse the hidden reasons behind this habit. Moreover, the author does not provide any remedial measures to avoid the influence of lies. The plot of the essay is loosely tied and it affects the unity of ideas. Analysis of the essay helps the reader to have a clear idea about various types of lies. But it fails to defend the reasons or to suggest possible solution for the focus behavioural problem, i.e. telling lies.

Works Cited

Ericsson, Stephanie. The Way We Lie, an Analysis. BookRags. 2006. Web.

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