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The Big Deal About Lying
By Susan Hines-Brigger


What the Church Has to Say
Making Amends
Talk About It
For Teens: Break the Habit
For Kids: George Washington and the Cherry Tree


It 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.

What 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.

Making Amends

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 Reconciliation.

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 your untruthfulness.

Talk About It

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



For Teens: Break the Habit

If I remember correctly, my teenage years proved rather difficult when it came to telling the truth. It seems I was always finding myself in a situation that required—at least in my mind—some untruth such as where I was going, who I was going with, why I missed curfew, whether I had my homework done, passing on a juicy piece of gossip even if I wasn’t sure it was true, etc.

The problem was that the more I did it, the easier it became. In fact, after a while it became almost second nature and I would find myself lying needlessly. That’s the thing about lies. You tell them because you think they will simplify your life or a situation, but they end up making things more complicated. Once you tell a lie, you often need to tell additional lies to cover up the first one.

Sound familiar? If so, try to break the habit. Become aware of the situations you find yourself in when you feel compelled to lie. For instance, if you are continually creating stories to cover up why you’ve missed curfew, make a real effort to leave early enough to make it home on time. If you’re not late, you have no reason to lie about why you missed curfew.

You also might want to go online and read the Youth Update article “What’s Wrong With Lying & Cheating?” by James Philipps. It’s available at

For Kids: George Washington and the Cherry Tree

Perhaps one of the most famous stories about the virtue of telling the truth involves our first president, George Washington, and the cherry tree. As the story goes, one day when he was about six, George was playing in the garden with his hatchet and chopped down a young cherry tree. When his father asked who was responsible, George  said he could not tell a lie, and confessed that he had done it.

For fun, draw a picture of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree.

You might also want to take a trip to the library and see if you can find any of these books about honesty: Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big, by Berkeley Breathed; My Big Lie, by Bill Cosby; and The Honest-to-Goodness Truth, by Patricia McKissack.


Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to

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