seems that every time you open the paper or turn on the news
these days there’s a story involving someone lying.
Pete Rose recently admitted that he lied about
betting on baseball. Martha Stewart’s trial hinged on whether
or not she was honest about her stock dealings. Kobe Bryant
says he’s telling the truth; his accuser says she is. Who’s
to be believed?
As parents, it’s difficult enough for us to instill
values—such as honesty—in our kids without having to explain
situations like those mentioned above. Children seem to learn
the art of altering the truth quickly enough. I have caught
my daughter, even at the age of five, blaming her brother
for things I saw her do.
the Church Has to Say
The Church has addressed the issue of lying
all the way back to the story of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel
and in the Ten Commandments, which instruct, “You shall not
bear false witness against your neighbor.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines
lying in this way: “to speak or act against the truth in order
to lead someone into error” (#2483). The Catechism
also addresses the fact that lies can vary in seriousness,
from a lie to protect someone’s feelings to more serious lies
that can harm someone’s life.
The biggest problem with lies is that they
damage our relationship with someone by breaking the mutual
trust. When we are not honest with people, they are less likely
to believe us the next time we tell them or promise them something.
An important part of making up for any lie’s damage
is making some sort of reparation. The Catholic Church provides
a perfect opportunity to do just that with the Sacrament of
By going to Confession, we acknowledge that we have done
wrong and perform some action to try to make amends. Of course,
because the lie injures another person, it’s probably a good
idea to try to patch things up with the person affected by
I’m sure the issue of lying will come up in
your family at some point, if not already. Here are some suggestions
for talking about the issue when it does:
Practice what you’re preaching. This is perhaps the
hardest thing to do. Pay extra attention to your own actions
when it comes to being honest. Remember, kids are more likely
to imitate what they see you doing than what you tell them.
If your child catches you in a lie—such as telling someone
you can’t help because you’re busy (when really you’re not)—use
it as a teachable moment.
Talk about the different types of lies and their severity.
Explain that telling someone you like his or her outfit—even
if you don’t—is different than taking something that isn’t
yours, or telling someone something that you know isn’t true.
Explain that the motive behind the lie is also important.
Explain why lying is harmful not only to the person telling
the lie but to others as well. Use the example of someone
cheating at a game. Not only are you lying about playing and
winning honestly, but also you are not being fair to your
opponent. Another example you could use is stealing.
Set up consequences for lying. Many parents I know often hand
out two separate punishments when their child does something
wrong and then lies to cover it up. The first is for what
the child did wrong; the second is for lying about it.
Encourage family members who are old enough to take part in
the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Next Month: Faith on Vacation