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FIRST-PERSON: Innocent lies?


ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–“Tell me lies; tell me sweet little lies,” croons Fleetwood Mac in the song “Little Lies.” If polls taken through the years are accurate, many Americans are quite comfortable with the British band’s lyrics.

A survey conducted by the Josephson Institute of Ethics found that 59 percent of teenagers believe that “successful people do what they have to do to win, even it others consider it cheating.” The study also reported that 42 percent of young people said “a person has to lie or cheat sometimes in order to succeed.”

An Associated Press-Ipsos poll conducted last summer revealed that 40 percent of respondents said it is OK to “exaggerate a story to make it more interesting.” One-third found no problem in lying about being sick in order to take a day off work and 65 percent said it was OK to lie to “avoid hurting another’s feelings.”

The groups most like to deceive, according to the AP-Ipsos survey, are “people aged 18-29, college graduates and those with higher household incomes.”

A Louis Harris and Associates survey taken in 2000 revealed that American workers take an accumulated 200 million sick days a year. Of the employees calling in ill, 42 percent that earned more than $50,000 a year admitted to faking it.

In 1998, a USA Today survey indicated that a majority of Americans make dishonesty a routine practice. While not a daily activity, most that participated in the poll said they lied two to three times a week. Respondents considered their deception to be at an “insignificant level.”


Two to three lies a week adds up to 104 to 156 lies annually. But to most Americans this amounts to an “insignificant level” of deception.

In the book “Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead,” author David Callahan wrote, “A 1997 study by a company that does pre-employment screening found that 95 percent of college-age respondents were willing to lie in order to get a job -– and that 41 percent of the students had already done so.”

While a student at Rutgers University in the early 1990s, Michael Moore (not the film director) wrote and self published “Cheating 101: The Benefits and Fundamentals of Earning the Easy ‘A’.” At $6.00 a piece, “Cheating” sold 1000 copies in five days and subsequent printings sold out equally as fast.

“I don’t think I am making a cheater out of anybody,” Moore said. “It’s like drunk driving. It’s only wrong if you get caught.”

No matter how you slice it, many Americans practice deception on regular basis. And many do not seem particularly bothered by it.

In what has come to be known as the Golden Rule, Jesus taught, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” The instruction could not be any clearer: You are to treat others the way that you would like for them to treat you.

If a significant number of Americans are dealing deceptively two to three times a week, how many times is any one of us on the receiving end of a lie? If you are lying on a regular basis, it would be naïve to think everyone is always shooting straight with you.

When you judge a liar’s behavior by the Golden Rule, the deceptive person should not only accept being lied to, he or she should expect it. “The liar’s punishment is not in the least that he is not believed,” someone once observed, “but that he cannot believe anyone else.”

Three high school boys played hooky from their afternoon classes. When confronted with their absence the next morning, one of the boys explained that they had gone to his home for lunch and that a flat tire prevented them from returning to school.

The boys anxiously awaited the teacher’s response. “Well, you missed a pop quiz yesterday afternoon,” the teacher replied, “but I’m going to give you a chance to make it up. The boys breathed a sigh of relief. The teacher instructed the boys to take out a sheet of paper. “Here’s the first question,” she began, “which tire was flat?”

Tempted to lie? Ponder who might be lying to you and then tell the truth. Contrary to the lyrics of Fleetwood Mac’s popular song, lies are not little nor are they sweet.
Kelly Boggs, whose column appears each Friday in Baptist Press, is editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message.