I’m not upset that you lied to me; I’m upset that from now on I can never believe you.”

We have all lied at one point of our lives or another. Sometimes we tell a lie to escape punishment. Sometimes we tell fibs so that our friend or sibling does not get into trouble. Some children tell tall tales to impress others and appear cooler, richer or groovier than they really are. Some seek attention and sympathy by lying. Some evil geniuses can even create stories to set friends against each other or get others in trouble.

How lying harms the personality

No matter what the reasons for evading truth are, the habit of telling lies can be a very destructive personality trait. You might think, “What is the harm in telling my teacher that I could not do the homework because my mother was so ill that we had to take her to the hospital?”

Can you imagine your embarrassment when during a parent-teacher meeting, this topic comes up and your lie comes out in the open? How deceived your teacher will feel and how hurt your mother will be at your duplicity. Worst of all, they will begin to question your each and every statement and that will be very unpleasant.

Telling the truth is always the better option, no matter what the consequences. Sometimes it can be really hard. If you think that your classmates will laugh at you if you are not well off or do not have a fancy car and invent stories to impress them, you are actually making matters worse. If you have strict teachers or parents, it might seem easier to lie your way out of an unpleasant situation but it never happens that way.

In trying to cover the first lie, you tell another lie and this leads to an endless chain of lies. And all these lies can come crashing down on your head any time. You will live in constant fear of truth being discovered and it can have a very bad effect on your nerves. You might constantly feel guilty and apprehensive and it will seem as if all joys are seeping out of your life.

Lying and your personality

Telling lies is in fact an expression of being afraid — afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us, afraid of facing the reality. Every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger till it gains control over us.

When children lie about various aspects of their lives and pretend to be what they are not, they are actually exhibiting inferiority complex and want to appear to be something they are not.

Telling lies also shows a weakness of character. A liar makes up stories to cover up something he has done wrong. Or he makes excuses for something he was given responsibility for and did not fulfil. And when he hides the truth, he is being cowardly as he is not willing to take the responsibility and blame for his actions.

How to avoid telling lies

Now that we have seen how harmful lying is for our peace of mind, let us try to find out ways how to avoid telling them in the first place.

Show courage and integrity: If you did not do your school assignment, go up to the teacher, own up and apologise. Maybe you will get a punishment but be brave and admit it. You might get another chance and you can use it to finish your work. Once the whole episode is behind you, you will be stronger, more responsible and conscientious about your work.

Stop and think: Remember what happened to the boy who cried, “Wolf!” Keep on reminding yourself that truth has a way of coming out in the open. Once you lose people’s trust, you lose the power to be heard by others, because they will stop listening and believing you.

Confess and apologise: When you force yourself to admit that you have done something wrong, you are taking the first step in breaking this terrible habit. Suppose you broke an expensive vase. You might be tempted to say that your two-year-old brother did it.

But ask yourself, “Is it fair? Is this right?” What is the worst thing that can happen? Your parents might be angry with you for a little while but they will always appreciate your honesty and courage when you tell the truth. And they will believe your word the next time too.

Save yourself from disgrace: Sometimes people tell lies to create trouble or get others in trouble. This is again a very cruel and wrong thing to do. We must realise that lies always get exposed and then the liar will have to face shame and humiliation.

Avoid situations that might tempt or cause you to lie: If you have friends who are constantly boasting and, as a result, it may compel you to lie too to match to their claims and boasting, maybe it is time you need new friends or you just need enough self-confidence to know that while your life is different from others, it is equally worthy and blessed in many ways.

For example, your friend went to Dubai during summer holidays and you spent yours with your grandparents. She has lots of exciting things to tell and you do not have much to say.

So what? Maybe you brought lots of laughter and joy into your grandparents’ lives and had loads of fun with your cousins.

Who knows, maybe your friend did not have such a grand time in a foreign place and does not have the blessings called grandparents. Learn to take pride in yourself, your belongings, your family and your heritage, and the need to tell lies will go away.

When friends lie: When friends lie to each other, it can eventually destroy friendships. You do not have to tolerate anyone’s lies. If your friend tells lies in front of you, change the subject or let him know privately that it is not a good habit.

Even with words such as “Are you sure?” or “I can’t believe this,” you can let others know politely that you are not falling for their stories. This will eventually stop them. Remember, if you are honest and truthful, it becomes easier for your friends to be open and unpretentious too.

So chuck this bad habit out of your life and enjoy your childhood!