The truth about lies

The truth about lies

Dear H and N,

You remember the other day we were reading Matilda? The formidable Ms Trunchbull was yelling at her and Matilda tells a tiny white lie to save herself. You know what a white lie is, don’t you? It’s that small harmless lie that hurts no one but might actually save someone.

A question in your worksheet asked, “Did you think Matilda did right?” Both of you were in complete agreement with her, given that Ms Trunchbull was such a tyrant and she was but a child.

We talked about honesty and H, you were pretty accurate when you said, ‘If a lie doesn’t harm anyone, it is okay.’And N you had added, “When mamas tell babies to drink up their milk or their bones will break, it’s okay na, even though bones don’t ACTUALLY break if we don’t drink milk, right?’

Yes well you are right. 

Or are you??

Listen to this story before you make up your mind…

Imagine you have a friend; a special friend who is always with you. He talks to no one but you and no one can hear him but you. He’s a bit magical in that he always knows right from wrong. He has a problem, though – he cannot keep quiet when he sees any dishonesty – even the tiniest most harmless one. He’s a bit crazy like that.

Each time you are dishonest — even a tinny tiny bit, even when you’ve simply kept quiet when you might have spoken up — he bugs you and bugs you and bugs you till you feel really bad. Just when you are feeling relieved you’ve warded off a horrible yelling or a punishment he reminds you that you’ve done it dishonestly and makes you feel bad all over again.

And so you get angry and tell him to shut up. “I know it’s not the complete truth but THIS time it doesn’t matter. It’s just a tiny lie,” you say. But he doesn’t listen. “A lie is a lie,” says he, over and over again. Finally you’ve had enough and you’re so angry you tape his lips.

With each little lie another bit of tape goes onto your friend’s lips. 

Over the years it becomes a habit, this ‘shutting up’ your friend. His voice becomes more and more faint, till you can hear it no more and you’re lying without even thinking. You forget you ever had a friend. Finally there comes a time when you’re all grown up and you have a big complicated decision to make where the right and wrong is all mixed up and you cannot make out one from the other. “Aha!” you think then, “my friend can tell me, he has the magic that tells right from wrong”.

Then you remember, with a bit of regret, you’ve taped him up. “No problem,” you think as you start to painstakingly remove it all. Finally, the tape is off but what is this?? He still cannot speak. After years and years of silence he has lost his magic voice.

What do you do then? Of course, you might come to me or to papa but we might not be around by then. Besides, we haven’t been with you all along like your friend and may not have the right answers. What then? You’re quite stuck, right? It will be a hard hard task to teach your friend to talk again and by then it just might be too late.

We all have this friend inside us. It’s called the Conscience. The thing to do, dear children, is to keep your little friend up and fighting fit. Let him yell at you and bug you till he gets his way. Yes, he will make you confess you broke that plate, and get you yelled at too, but then he will also free you from endless days worrying about ‘what will happen when mama finds out?’. And that extra tight hug she gave you saying she was glad you owned up – totally worth it, wasn’t it?

Listen to your little friend with all your heart because honesty, complete honesty is, and will always be, the best policy.

Love and hugs always,


45 Replies to “The truth about lies”

  1. I absolutely loved your post .The only truth the kids should understand is the truth of never to lie.And the seeds of honesty should be sowed at this tender age only.

  2. This quote has been on my mind – Don't comfort me with a lie but hurt me with the truth. Because I don't want to lose my trust in you.
    These values need to be instilled right from childhood.

  3. That is wonderful Tulika dear – so true – honesty is always the best, and its amazing how good concersations you can make with kids – about so many issues… as long as its explained to them in the best way. I remember my parents used to say to me my eyes would turn square if I watched too much TV …. Oh well.,… Hugs sweetie:-)

  4. That was a very wonderful story, Tulika and very helpful one, too. I have a nephew who is 6 and has begun using the little lies to escape getting caught on the wrong foot! I am going to forward your post to his mom now so she gets a good idea how to deal with 'it'! Thank you so much! !!

  5. Brilliant ! This is a great post! If you feel like being honest and tells your friend the truth, ask yourself:"is it worthwhile telling the truth?".
    There are people who tell you their truth without being asked. Those people are wrong. You don't have to tell the truth if nobody asks you so. If you like the persons who asks your opinion however, and you don't like their choice of dressing, furnishing… whatever.., try to tell your opinion in a nice way. My daughter once asked me if the meal she prepared was okay. I couldn't say it was my taste, so I said :"I know that you can cook deliciously, this time I think it is not so nice"! She laughed.
    Thanks for your comment. Of course you can use my post for face book. I also got it from one of my students a couple of years ago.

    1. You are right Wil. I did want to follow up with a bit on honesty not meaning rudeness or tattling. However I didn't want to dilute this lesson so left it for now. I will get to that too in due course since that's an important part too.

  6. Ohh what a simple yet powerful way to explain the biggest rule in life !!!
    Am sharing it too and no prize for guessing the name 😉

    love always

    1. Thanks Jyoti. This is something we take for granted however with the kind of exposure our kids have it is important to reiterate even the most basic values.

  7. Honesty is always the best policy. I tell my son always to tell the truth regardless of the consequence. The above story makes a lot of sense. Once we get into the habit of lies, even if it is a white lie, honesty will leave u bit by bit!

  8. YES honesty is the best policy BUT we live in a world where we all have some or a lot of deceit in us.. thats the way things are . Ok enough of TRUTH talk 🙂

    I loved the way you explained it all and believe it or not MATILDA is my favourite too 🙂 and our little friend conscience is a GREAT Ally and keeps us from being total idiots … I do wish that i can turn the time back and go back to my childhood when everything was SIMPLE and black meant black .. while WHITe was White and NOT OffWhite ..

    you are a lovely parent and I am sure the little one will grow up to be a beautiful HUMAN BEING ..


    1. They have all their lives to find out the greys and the off-whites of honesty Bikram. I feel it's a good idea to start off with the all white and hope it stays that way as long s possible.

  9. 🙂 Well done, Tulika. I've done the "conscience talk" in a milion ways with many kids – and it always works! Matilda is one of my all-time favorite stories – magical yet touching. Love your post! You are a terrific mom!

    1. It helps…. This conscience idea, doesn't it? We all love Matilda too but Roald Dahl has a rather quirky sense of writing and the kids need to understand that it is just fiction.

    2. Believe it or not, children know it, Tulika.They are more resilient than we give them credit for. We do our jobs, they do theirs! And in some way, we can thank the media for that today!

    1. Thanks Nupur. Sometimes it is hard to explain the far reaching consequences of things. Trying to make use of every opportunity seems to be the only way :-).

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