Do not lie! From a religious perspective, lying is wrong. From an ethical perspective, lying is wrong. We continue to be warned against lying.
While there are many who never lie, there are many of us who find it very hard to not lie. Even worse, there are people who think a ‘white lie’ is no problem. And of course, there are some who consider lying as second nature. As Muslims and followers of Ahl-ul-Bayt (peace be upon them), we need to effectively avoid lying. In order to do that, we need to consider:
The Drive to Lie
In order to stop lying, we need to extract the seeds that push someone to lie. That is, we need to understand why people lie!
A very influential factor that drives many people to lie, especially children, is fear. It can be fear of punishment. It can be fear due to peer pressure. It can be fear of loss of social credibility. If something that is very dear to a person is put in jeopardy, lying will be the instant relief.
If a child knows that he will be punished for stealing a toy, and if he knows that lying will save him, he or she is more likely to lie in order to gain the instant relief for the fear.
Another important fact is greed and personal benefit. Those who adapt the philosophy of “the end justifies the means” are more open to lying for their own benefit. If they are poor or in need of money, they might be open to lying and conning people in order to sort their problems. Even if they were rich, greed can push them to lying in order to make more money.
There are other factors, and they include hatred towards someone or trying to sabotage the relationships of others. Understanding these factors that drive a person towards lying is an important first step. But the main problem lies in the fact that these drives stem from our human nature. For example, fear from punishment is a normal feeling for someone to have. Fear of being ridiculed is a very strong emotion that can take over a person. It is not easy to avoid these emotions, let alone overpower them. But lying can give the instant gratification or relief that we (desperately) seek.
So we need to be armed with yet another piece of the puzzle and that is:
The Truth of a Lie
A lie can give instant gratification but that is only the outer ‘cloak’ it wears. The reality has not changed, and the lie remains false and against the facts. Even the slightest slip-up will put the liar in that same position again he started at if not worse. In essence, the person who lies out of fear will be in fear of the lie being exposed. That is no gratification! But it is the reality of the lie. In fact, fear of the lie being exposed is a common endpoint no matter what initially drove the person to lie