A minister told his congregation, “For next week’s sermon, I would like everyone to read the 17th chapter of Mark from your Bible. This will help you fully understand my topic on an important sin.”

The following Sunday, the minister opened his sermon with “Now, how many of you have read Mark 17 this week, as I asked?” Nearly all the hands went up.

The minister smiled. “Mark has only 16 chapters. I will now proceed with my sermon on the subject of lying.”

I hope this isn’t a sermon, but I would like to discuss lying, because it seems to have become more prevalent. When did it become so easy for people to lie?

I’m a big “Seinfeld” fan, and I well remember the episode where Jason Alexander’s character, George Costanza, says, “Jerry, just remember — it’s not a lie if you believe it.”

Maybe that’s the problem. A lot of people don’t have a problem with a “white” lie or a fabrication, but it’s still a lie and has consequences. A white lie soon gets tanned from exposure.

People lie for a variety of reasons. Fear of punishment is a natural reaction, an excuse often offered by children. Another is escaping embarrassment and at the same time improving your image to impress or mislead others. This is where ego comes into play. People want to be seen as good, polite and successful.

Sadly, we live in a time where lying isn’t treated as seriously as it should be.

Businesses must be honest if they want to survive. Truth is a virtue that must be taught at a young age, long before a first job. It should never be optional.

Research by McGill University found that by age 3, roughly 40 percent of children begin telling lies — even though they know it is wrong. Fortunately, most tots aren’t great liars. Studies conducted all over the world revealed that when pressed for more information, children will often betray their own deception with a smile or other facial expressions, or by uttering the truth. However, once these children turn 4 years old, 74 percent of them will engage in telling lies and become better at maintaining their falsehoods when questioned.

What can parents do? Start addressing the situation when your children are young. Share stories that have a moral with little ones so they have an example that is easy to understand and remember. Use positive reinforcements to stress the importance of honesty. Finally, be a role model for honesty.

A businessman walking down the street noticed three young girls arguing about a puppy they had found. “What’s going on here?” he asked.

“We found this lost puppy and we all want to take him home,” one little girl said. “So, we’re having a contest,” a second girl chimed in.

“Whoever tells the biggest lie gets to keep him!” the third girl said.

“What?” the businessman asked. “Lying is a terrible thing, girls. Why, I’m over 50, and I’ve never told a single lie in my life!”

The girls looked at each other. “OK, mister,” the first girl said. “You win.”

Mackay’s Moral: Those who cook up stories usually find themselves in hot water.


Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.