A wise man once said that a liar is afraid of men, but not afraid of God. What he meant was that, when we tell lies, we do it because we are afraid of what other people would think of us, or do to us, if they knew the truth; but although we know that God reads our hearts and hates all untruthfulness, we do not mind. We would rather please men than please God; we do not mind offending God by lying, but we are afraid of offending men by telling the truth.
Fear of men is, then, the first motive for telling lies. The naughty boy at school tries to escape punishment by lying. “Please, Sir”, he says to the master, “I did not do it.” The servant who has broken something is afraid of his master’s anger; so he lies and says another servant did it. The child who has stolen some cakes is afraid her mother will punish her; so she lies and says the rats ate them up. When we have done something silly, and are afraid people will laugh at it if they find it out, we deny it, and say we never did it. So liars are generally cowards. It often takes courage to tell the plain truth. So the proverb says, “Tell the truth, and shame the devil.”
But all lying is not due to fear. People often tell lies from greed, to get money; or ambition, to get power and place, or the desire to get grand and fashionable friends. The dishonest shopman tells lies when he says his inferior goods are the best on the market because he wants to make money quickly. The politician tells lies at elections, to persuade people to make him a member of the Legislative Assembly. And some poor people of low birth tell lies by pretending to be rich and related to lords, in order to get into fashionable society.
Lying is a bad habit; indeed, it is one of the very worst of bad habits. And it is one that we can easily get into if we do not take care of. It may pay for a time, but in the end, it brings shame, unhappiness and much sorrow. No one trusts a known liar, and no one wants him as a friend. Telling the truth pays the best.