Honesty Pinocchio Child
Why do we lie? Image Credit: iStock


  • What is a lie?
  • Are we born liars? We asked an expert
  • First-hand accounts: why do I lie, or why not lie?
  • From a mom: How do I deal with my young son's lies?
  • Vox pop: UAE expats asked if honesty actually helps

The whole truth and nothing but the truth?

An average person lies about 1.65 times a day.

Imagine going through life with 100 per cent complete honesty. Telling someone that they do indeed look fat, or admitting how you really feel about a certain person that you don’t like… to their face. Lying may indeed be a sin, but doesn’t it make life just that little bit easier and just that little bit better?

What is a lie?

A lie is a false statement or a situation in which someone is being untruthful. Lies can come in many shapes and sizes. They can be major and life altering or they can be sweet little lines that you say to spare someone’s feelings. National Honesty Day is celebrated on April 30 to encourage honesty and straightforward communication in life. Although it is mainly observed in the USA, people all over the world should take note of this day and use it as an opportunity to reflect on how honest they are in life.

According to a ground breaking book by author Sisela Bok published in 1978 “Lying: Moral choice in public and private life” There are many reasons why people think lying is wrong.

• Lying is bad because a generally truthful world is a good thing: lying diminishes trust between human beings:

• If people generally did not tell the truth, life would become very difficult, as nobody could be trusted and nothing you heard or read could be trusted - you would have to find everything out for yourself.

As you can see, many people think that lying is always wrong and honesty is the way to go. Except when there's a good reason for lying - which only then makes it okay.

So you need to ask yourself ‘Would telling the truth or telling a lie bring about the better consequences?’

Let’s just say: It’s complicated.

Are we born liars? We asked an expert

By Karishma Nandkeolyar, Web News Editor

Anything that lives breathes…and lies?

Studies suggest that like strategists we gauge the field and calculate if feigning something will be of benefit before making a decision. In one experiment, conducted in the mid-1980s by developmental psychologist Michael Lewis, children were asked to NOT peek at a toy that was left alone in a room with them. They were then questioned about whether their curiosity had led to action. While most kids did look, a large number proceeded to blandly lie about it.

When the same study was conducted but with a monetary value attached to both honest replies and lies – when honestly was more greatly valued, it was also more often dispensed.

Clinical Psychologist Tanuka Gupta, says: “Lying can be both [inherited and learned]. For example, when lying is a survival mechanism, through repeated lies, [it] can become habit. It’s not genetically predisposed in these situations, where people fabricate according to context.

“However, lying can also be part of the genetic make-up; it could be a part of mental health disorder or anti-social personality disorder. If lying is determined as gene-based, it is seen as a medical issue, as a psychological issue. Lying which comes through environment, like, [if] a child is scared of punishment and lies to protect himself [over and over] then it’s a learned behaviour through conditioning.”

Now for some (good?) news if your child is a liar. “Lying requires a series of cognitive functions in terms of memory or logical reasoning, or anticipating what will happen in a situation, it requires a certain level of skill,” explains Gupta. But this is more an indicator of street smarts than anything else. “If a person is socially naïve, in lying probably is very difficult because they are not able to anticipate, interpret body language. However, if a person is consistently lying and is proficient in lying, then they are using those socially manipulating skills.”

The only way forward, to have your child understand the difference in when it is right or wrong, contrary to popular belief, is not through observation. It’s more a need to debate. “I would encourage teachers or caregivers or whoever is in charge of teaching to engage in a kind of discussion and problem solving more in order to understand the consequences of an action – as opposed to saying this is right or wrong,” explains Gupta. “– it’s important to discuss the values they’ve been taught.”

"Mindfulness practice in particular is a very useful tool to help children gain awareness of and manage their emotions and emotional responses," adds Aamnah Husain, Counseling Psychologist at German Neuroscience Center,

So getting back to the real question: are we born liars? No, but it certainly comes easy to trip into that trap.

How to spot a liar

Husain  tells us the body language you need to keep an eye out for.

-Fidgeting and restlessness, e.g. playing with hair or clothes

-Covering (or touching) of nose or mouth, subconscious attempt to hold back information

-Change in tone, usually becoming higher pitched when nervous about lying, throat clearing because throat muscles can get tense and tight.

-Staring too much or breaking eye contact at crucial point of conversation, rapid blinking and blink taking longer than usual.

None of these signs alone can tell you if someone is lying or deceiving, its important to notice inconsistencies in body language and to know what the baseline behaviour and body language looks like for the person being assessed.

First-hand accounts

I lie all the time: Lying is good for you

By Yousra Zaki, Features Editor - Web

I lie all the time. Probably every day. But why do I lie, you may ask? I lie because I have reached a point in my life where I want to do what I want. I am not married, I don’t have any children, I am in my twenties, so I am allowing myself to be selfish and do what I want.

I don’t want to go somewhere, or meet someone if I don’t feel like it. I hate going to the movies, or shopping with a friend, I’d rather watch films on my couch and buy clothes on my own. But I can’t just tell people “You know what? I don’t want to see you.” If there is one thing that is worse than lying, it’s being a jerk to your loved ones. I am a sweet and genuine person (If I may say so myself) I wouldn’t lie to break the law, or lie and be unethical at work, but I chose the path of the white lie, as opposed to being a blunt, ill-mannered and discourteous person who actually tells the truth all the time.

I tell lies because I don’t want to upset my friends. It is not socially acceptable to just say “I don’t want to go out with you, because I would rather stay at home in bed watching a TV show.” Sometimes if need a bigger excuse, I will make up a family dinner that I can’t get myself out of. As a result, I avoided doing something I don’t want to do and my friend wasn’t told that I don’t want to spend time with them. Win-win.

I also tell lies for my own selfish good. For example, I know if tell my friends that a dinner reservation is at 8pm they will show up at 8.45pm, so I lie and say it’s at 7.30pm. I will also lie to my parents if it sometimes prevents an argument. Examples of such lies include:

“Yes I took a jacket with me, because I know it’s cold.” or “I never drive over the speed limit.” And sometimes “Don’t worry, I haven’t spent all my money on trips. I am fine.”

Lying makes life go a little more smoothly. It keeps people happy, it keeps the peace with the family and sometimes you just don’t feel like dealing with certain people or certain situations, so you pull yourself out of them without worrying about hurting any feelings. Just be careful not to get caught, because that’s a situation that you can’t lie your way out of.

Why I can’t lie

By Dona Cherian, Web News Editor

My dad believed in moderate forms of corporal punishment and that’s why I think my brother and I have been rendered unable to lie, at least not without making complete fools of ourselves. Even though my brother hasn’t been the target of these punishments, I have and in good measure.

Let me start off by saying I am eternally grateful to my dad for this – I have absolutely no resentment and would have it happen no other way. I don’t think I would be the person I was if not for the amazing, loving parents I have.

Coming back to lying, I remember one incident in particular – I came home with unexpectedly low marks on a mid-term exam, terrified of how my mom would react. After all, she had spent many evenings and nights drumming information into my brain. I lied, and hid the paper in the deep recesses of my school bag. Two days later, as I was happily and unsuspectingly playing with my brother after school, my parents accidentally found the paper. My dad came up, possibly to give me a chance to own up, and asked me, “So, did you get your exam results?” “No”, I bravely, or rather foolishly, said. My dad without another word beat me black and blue. I can’t remember a time I have openly lied (I have omitted facts, I am only human and a millennial) since that day. When I lie, people who know me can tell, especially my dad and my husband. At 27, I still feel guilty if I haven’t owned up to things to my dad, even if they could be counted as inconsequential.

Do I think honesty helps? To me, it is my best quality and I never want to learn how to be more calculating. However, I can see that being clever, with an ability to tell white lies, could take you up the social or corporate ladder. I don’t disrespect that unless it’s harming anyone. As I said, I am happy my dad inculcated in me this disability.

Also read

This is what I do when my son lies

By Evangeline Elsa, Community Solutions Editor

Honesty Children
Honesty Day 2019 Image Credit: iStock

Dubai: Call it fibbing or a child’s white lie, being a mother of a six-year-old has taught me that children learn how to lie, very quickly. A lie doesn’t necessarily mean not telling the truth, it can also be hiding the truth.

Of course, I have lied as a child too. Ask my mother, she will tell you I was a con artist. When I told my mother about my son’s new behaviour, she said that my son probably has my genes in that regard, and that it’s karma (Thanks mum, that helped).

My mother believed in corporal punishment. In my defence my “white lies”, were just to escape hard slaps or a few hours of having to kneel, sobbing, next to the dining table in our house for not having completed my homework and hiding my books or not having finished my lunch and feeding it to birds or not having scored well and hiding my report card.

I, on the other hand, try to have a conversation, explain logic or give my son a bitter scolding, if he does something naughty or dangerous. I believe in corporal punishment too, but that is reserved for out-of-hand tantrums.

No, my son does not lie for everything. Not right now, at least. His lies are more on the lines of - “Yes mummy, I washed my hands after playing outside”, or, he may hide something when he broke it or the time he spilled golden paint all over a tablecloth and put some books on it to cover it up.

It’s easy to see through his rare and harmless lies for now. I call out his lie and tell him: “When you lie, I feel bad”, hoping emotional blackmail might work. I have tried promising him: “I won’t be mad at you if you tell me the truth”. I have even gone to the extent of lying myself and saying: “Mummies have super eyes and God tells them everything. So you might as well tell me before I ask God and get really mad.”

God, in my case, mostly tells me through my housekeeper.

Motherhood is tricky business, and like most mothers, I would love for my child to grow up to be an honest man. My mother told me not to worry and that he will grow out of it, like I did, as long as I don’t encourage the behavior and let it become a habit. Let’s see how this goes.

Is a white lie, a lie?

By Umair Ahmed, Junior Marketing Assistant

I would like to describe myself as an honest person but when I really think about it, am I actually honest?

As an adult, I pride myself in being able to maintain and sustain friendships. I feel like I don’t have time to do things for myself, yet I am able to have friends and give them some of this ‘non-existent’ time of mine. The daily Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat notification is a reassurance that my friends are thinking of me and that I am doing something right.

My circle of friends includes people I’ve met recently, and people I’ve known for more than a decade. Within my circle, I have different groups of friends (this always pleasantly surprises me, that I am able to juggle so many people) and within these groups, there are different personalities and dynamics.

When I sit and think about how I do this, I think it’s all my white lies. For me, I think hurting someone, intentional or not, is one of the worst things to do. In one of the groups, to keep everyone happy, I would never mention what the other person is saying about them. In the other, I wouldn’t ever mention to one friend that I talk to the other every single day. I will not tell one friend that he could be doing more with his life because he is happy with where he is. I would tell one friend that she looks good, even If I don’t think so, because I know she values people’s opinion about her looks.

I will always try to mend friendships; when you have a group of friends, and there is a fall out, I will always try to meddle and fix it. I will always tell the friend who wasn’t able to come out for something, that they were really missed and the entire evening was spent talking about them.

On paper, all this might make me sound like I’m some kind of altruistic being but I just turned 30, is it time to think about myself and put myself first. Am I not living my truest, authentic self because I have to lie to my friends? And should I not accept that a white lie is just in the end, harmless and trivial?

Does being honest help? UAE residents answer

By Anjana Kumar, Web Reporter

Ahmad Mohammad Al Harthy, 27, Emirati

190430  Ahmad Mohammad Al Harthy
Ahmad Mohammad Al Harthy Image Credit: Supplied

Yes it does. By being honest you build trust in people. The more trust you build in people the better integrity you build for yourself. I work as a manager for a hotel group and being honest in my job is critical. My personality too is such that I can never lie. It just shows on my face. So I prefer to keep my life simple without complications.

Nermina Saric, 60, Bosnian

190430 Nermina Saric,
Nermina Saric Image Credit: Supplied

Not always. When you know the other person will be hurt with your honesty, it is better to lie. As long as you are not harming someone else it is fine. I try and keep quiet and refrain from commenting if I see something is wrong and the other person may not like hearing it. But when they insist on my opinion I am forced to lie. But I don’t feel guilty about it as I know I have done it for the good of the other person.

Mirjan Mehmedinovic, 34, Bosnian

190430 mirjan
Mirjan Mehmedinovic Image Credit: Supplied

One has to be rather courageous to live an honest life. It takes a lot for someone to remain honest in a world where lies rule. But I am proud to stand out. Yes there are people who do not lie, but they can be hard to find at times.

Rabee Saleh, 40, Syrian

109430 Rabee Saleh
Rabee Saleh Image Credit: Supplied

I can never lie as I have a short-term memory loss. Its takes an effort to lie and you end up looking like a fool if you’re caught up lying about the lie you said. So keep your life simple and just done lie. It is very exhausting.

Hiba Hani, 27, Emirati

190430 Hiba Hani
Hiba Hani Image Credit: Supplied

It is alright to lie as long as they don’t harm someone. Some lies you just need to tell people so they don’t end up hurt. Like telling a friend she doesn’t look fat, or that she is looking great. This way You don’t hurt the friend. More often than not whatever you are lying about it is an issue you need to resolve. So it is more important dealing with that than anything else.

Sandhya Prakash, 50, Indian

190430 Sandhya Prakash
Sandhya Prakash Image Credit: Supplied

Yes completely. When I spend a day without telling a lie I sleep well in the night. It gives me peace of mind that all is well. I have always been inspired by Mahatma Gandhi who is such a great example of someone who met all his challenges with honesty and no manipulation whatsoever. That is the way I like to live my life as well.

Jude Del Monte, 42, Filipina

190430 Jude Del Monte
Jude Del Monte Image Credit: Supplied

They say honesty is the best policy. But I don’t believe it works all the time. Today the world is so competitive and in order to keep up with all the competition, you have to lie at one point. But I don’t feel guilty about it as end of the day I am not hurting anyone, if anything I am trying to improve my life and that of everyone around me.

Nicki Carroll, 60, British

190430 nicki
Nicki Carroll

I prefer honesty and having a clear conscience. I can never lie. I am one of the honest people and quite in the face when it comes to delivering my opinion to others. I don’t believe in buttering up people and making them look good.