There’s been a lot of admissions of lying in the paper these past week. Is it ever OK to lie?

Olympic swimmer Kenrick Monk, recently broke down crying and admitted he invented a story about being hit by a P-plate driver as he rode his bike to training. Monk, who is 23, faced the media to confess to having made up the elaborate hit-and-run story to hide the fact he hurt himself when he fell from his skateboard.

‘‘I didn’t know what to do. I panicked, I freaked,’’ he said, tearfully explaining that he couldn’t tell the truth because he’d fallen off ‘‘something that a 10-year- old can ride’’. With the Olympic trials coming up in March, he had been too embarrassed to admit he suffered two broken bones in his elbow from such a stupid and irresponsible accident.

‘‘I lied,’’ say the spate of cheating men and women caught with their pants down each week. ‘‘I lied because I was scared, fearful, depressed, anxious, I had a sore tooth, a gammy foot. I lied to save you from having hurt feelings. I lied because it was in my best interests, wasn’t it, and if I didn’t you would have been angry at me. I lied and I will lie again. Everyone does it all the time, so why not me?’’

I know people who start telling porkies from the moment they open their eyes each day — compulsive liars such as the ex who drove me all the way to his fabulous country estate and then realised we couldn’t go in because he’d ‘‘accidentally’’ left his key in Sydney. We sat in someone else’s garden having a picnic lunch while he regaled me with stories of his make-believe youth.

My favourite is ‘‘lying by omission’’. As spoken by many:

‘‘I didn’t lie.’’ ‘‘But you didn’t tell me you were going to see your ex-girlfriend.’’ ‘‘Well, you didn’t ask.’’ ‘‘But I didn’t know about it to ask!’’ ‘‘Well, you can hardly blame me for that!’’

So many different ways to drum up porkies, pinkies, exaggerations, white fluffy lies, and the infamous black hole of omission. A veritable lolly shop of deception. Monk’s excuse was he didn’t mean it to go so far. ‘‘It just kept snowballing and snowballing . . .’’ The more lies he told, the more lies he had to tell.

The good thing about becoming an older person is that you are forced to stop lying. Not because you develop morals, but because, unlike a young person such as Monk, it’s impossible to remember where you put your car keys, let alone the details of a ‘‘snowballing’’ story. Like skateboarding, lying is for the young.

Tell me your stories. What’s the worst lie you’ve ever told or been told. Is it ever okay to lie?

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Full story The Australian


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21 Responses to Lying

  1. Johanna 14 December 2011 at 3:30 pm #

    The issue of ‘lies’, the intent, and questioning the purpose, has come up a lot for me recently. My experience has mostly related to relationships. I find the small lies from a stranger I can just brush off. Honesty is one of the foundation attributes for me in a relationship, any relationship. Many of my intimate relationships though have involved the men telling lies. Sometimes the lie by omission, the seemingly innocent ‘white lie’, lies told to “avoid hurting me” or “to protect me”. When really it’s only about them. It’s not easy to accept you have cared about someone who couldn’t be honest about themselves or their actions. And in summary, I always try to be honest, and if I can’t, I try to say nothing.

  2. Peter (name changed by admin) 25 October 2011 at 7:27 pm #

    Ah, liars & lying.
    Let me start with the liars.
    When I was still married we had a young woman stay with us. We knew her through her mother. The idea was that we’d have a stray for Christmas, as you do. And the stories … of the married guy of the family she’d stayed with who was hitting on her, her druggie boyfriend who never looked us in the eye, the inheritance she was chasing from the lawyer … and the phone calls we got at 2am with no-one on the line. The married guy, & his wife, through her out for stealing, the boyfriend was getting instalments on the money she stole from his mother and there was a lawyer, but he was after money from her as well. She was recentky caught pretending to be dying of cancer & getting public donations. But she got off.
    Then I was living abroad, worked with a guy who was just as bad. We ended up having a website – all of us to whom he owed money.
    Then we get to the need to lie.
    A good acquaintance at my rugby club told me, in near tears one night, his secret. That he’d fought at the Battle of Coral in Vietnam and how now the demons were getting to him, but not to tell his family as they knew nothing of it.
    Some years later he died suddenly. He was only 56, so no chance was he at Coral. I confirmed it with a spook friend. The lie from me was why I didn’t go to his funeral.
    All my life I’ve tried to tell the truth ‘yes, that was me who did that’ at primary school. And on through life. But anyone who says they never lie, isn’t telling the truth. It’s the intent of that lie that’s important.

  3. Ruth Ostrow 23 October 2011 at 11:53 pm #


  4. Ruth Ostrow 23 October 2011 at 11:52 pm #

    You may be lying Harry about my column being the best in the world… but I am loving it 🙂

  5. Ruth Ostrow 22 October 2011 at 7:27 pm #

    Lilian a lie is a lie. A not telling is a lie too. Lying by omission is by far the worst, because its the stuff that cheating is made of and it leaves the cheater feeling morally justified because “Well I didn’t lie about it” I’m not saying you should have told your husband, only that lets call a spade a spade, thanks for the question

  6. lilian 22 October 2011 at 7:02 pm #

    Pleae answer me Ruth, I am so annoyed w ith the lie of ommision I supposedly inflicted on my poor hubby, tell me what YOU think. Same gal as above!!!

  7. lilian 22 October 2011 at 6:59 pm #

    Ruth, I did not tell my husband about a small scrape I had in my car, and also another minor thing. Guess what when I did tell him about car and the other mishap, he said you always lie to me!~!!!! I said I did not lie I just didn’t tell you, thats a lie even still. I was furious. Was I over reacting ,or was he? Thanks for great topics, we love yoy and found you at last, xxxxx

  8. Glenda 22 October 2011 at 3:30 pm #

    Try living with a barrister – need to know basis only, masters of evasion, well-practiced.

  9. harry martin 22 October 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    Good afternoon Ruth,
    And I appreciate the way you revisit and make replies to your respondents. (You would make a good shop owner.)
    The question I like to ask myself is how much is my integrity worth? So that not mentioning it when you get given too much change to get an extra $3 seems to be selling oneself a bit short. So, I tell myself, well no doubt I will lie but I am saving it for the big one. Meanwhile the more I practice being truthful the easier it becomes to resist the `white lie’ or the `fib.’ Fundamentally lieing shows a disrespect for oneself and for others.
    That said would I be lieing if I remarked that yours is the best newspaper column in the Wester World?
    Yours tropically, Harry

  10. Peter 22 October 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    Always enjoy your column.
    Sitting here quietly contemplating  “A lolly shop of deception”.  Part of the human condition I suspect. American blues guitarist Albert King nailed it in song when he said “everybody wants to hear the truth but everybody wants to tell a lie”. Most us are ultimately a slave to self interest!

  11. Judy 22 October 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    I was driving with my then Teenage daughter and we were having a discussion, and then she changed the subject. I immediately knew that rather than lie to me she would change the subject. When I pointed this out to her, we both just laughed and I left it. In our family our way of “lying” is to change the subject and we know to leave it alone if it isn’t important.

  12. Lucy 22 October 2011 at 7:45 am #

    Lying and the internet – now that a subject unto itself! And what a sad indictment, Ruth, about young people having ‘friends’ without ever making eye contact.

    I made “friends” with a fellow on an internet classical music forum and he kept being a shape-shifter: his age kept changing – first it was older (to be nearer my age, 60, go figure) then he forgot and it got younger. This was a red flag to me about this person, even though the lie itself was trivial. People invent false selves on the internet which other people BELIEVE. That’s an aspect of lying which needs to be further explored.

  13. meredith 21 October 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    Ruth it is always wrong to lie, sorry but your fruit juice story leads me to say: two wrongs don’t make a right.

  14. Ruth Ostrow 21 October 2011 at 9:13 pm #

    Yes, last week I was sold a freshly squeezed juice which I knew was not freshly squeezed. I quizzed the girl who made it – fresh? Yes. Made here? Yes. Made right now, on the spot with a juicing machine? Yes, she said angrily. I told her I had hypoglycemia and my blood sugar spiked when I had sweeteners like refined sugars and I couldn’t have anything from a bottle or I’d go into a coma. Guess what? I was told that the juice came from a bottle — but of course, she told me that she didn’t know that! I do get low blood sugar so it wasn’t a lie… but there are no comas. Was I wrong? I don’t think so… like Noni says, nothing happens without fibs; and lies have to be met with lies to get justice or honesty.

  15. Ruth Ostrow 21 October 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    Yes yes and YES

  16. Ruth Ostrow 21 October 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    It doesn’t meaning “nothing”. It’s just that it’s become normal social behaviour to a generation of kids who don’t ever have to make eye contact in order to have “friends”

  17. meredith 21 October 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    Trying to teach children not to lie is so difficult these days. My nephew the other night said he hadn’t finished the chocolate which had disappeared from the cupboard. There were chocolate crumbs under his sheets where he’d been watching TV. When I confronted him on lying, he shrugged and said “So what?” I guess at a time where they grow up killing people on computer games and communicating in one line texts behind a screen without facial expressions – the act of being duplicitous means nothing.

  18. Rena 21 October 2011 at 9:01 pm #

    Hi Ruth
    My ex is a lie by omission kinda guy. I am giving a false name and address so I can’t be identified, but he fooled me because I never asked where he was going – hence he didn’t lie. But isn’t cheating a lie in itself?

  19. Stewart 21 October 2011 at 8:59 pm #

    Q: How can you tell when a person is bullshitting?
    A: When their mouth is moving

  20. Merry Man 21 October 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    Hello Ruth
    Sadly you are the mark again. I look at people when they tell me they couldn’t find parking which is why they are late for a meeting, or that they are sick or child is sick, which is why they can’t meet a deadline and I just think, what a lot of BS. I don’t think people give a toss what they say as long as it gets them out of a pickle.

  21. Noni 21 October 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    Ruth you got me there. I figure I lie at least once or twice a day. Not about major things or my real feelings but definitely the stuff that if you told the truth you’d never get anything done. Everyone is doing it.The shop assistant sold me something she said was made of wool, it wasn’t and she wouldn’t exchange it. She lied so I told her that it had a pneumonia and if my chest got cold I could be rushed to hospital. So she changed it. Isn’t this the way the world works???

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