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Truth . . . or Lie?

Is it better to tell the truth?

by James Lamont (revised, originally published in 2009)

Suitable for Key Stage 3


To consider why it is better to tell the truth.

Preparation and materials

  • Optional: You may wish to ask a student or selection of students to read the poem Matilda by Hilaire Belloc, which is available at:

    Note: please use sensitivity when using this poem.


  1. Optional: ask the prearranged student(s) to read the poem Matilda by Hilaire Belloc.

    Ask the students, ‘Why should we tell the truth?’

    Point out that there can be much to gain from lying, especially if we are guilty of something. It can often be easier to lie than to face the harsh fact that we’ve done something wrong or that our day has just got harder. People lie to each other all the time: many of us have probably been lied to or have lied ourselves already today. In a world where it seems that the truth is so often ignored, why lose out for the sake of ‘the truth’, whatever that is?

  2. It may be hard to define ‘the truth’ in a general sense, but mostly, it is easy to identify what is the truth. Most of us know what truth is and what a lie is; we have a sense of it within us. Occasionally, we may lie unknowingly by making a mistake and saying something incorrect. Few people would say that this is wrong, but it may cause problems later on. For example, if we try to help a friend with some work, but our answer is incorrect, we won’t have done anything immoral, but the person we ‘helped’ will lose marks.

  3. Lying is different. Liars know that what they say is incorrect; they aim to deceive and provide an inaccurate description of the world or themselves. They are then responsible for the bad outcomes of their deception. Lying is wrong in this sense because it creates problems for others that need not have arisen: they act in good faith on someone else’s lie.

  4. Of course, lying damages the liar themselves, too. A person who has lied is branded as such: what they say may not be trusted on another occasion. Generally, someone who lies can’t successfully lie forever; they will usually be found out.

  5. Human relationships are built on trust and liars can’t be trusted. Often, liars will lose friends because people want to be able to trust those around them. No one wants friends who they know could lie to them at any moment.

  6. Of course, there are different types of lies. Many people agree that a lie can be a good thing in some circumstances, in cases when the truth could hurt another’s feelings. However, a lie, if it continues, can inflate and become impossible to maintain. In such cases, the discovery of the truth can be more painful than it would have been if the lie had not been told in the first place.

  7. Fortunately, we can deal with these moral questions. Our conscience tells us what is right. We should listen to it, develop it and not ignore it, because if we do, we are only lying to ourselves.

Time for reflection

In the poem Matilda by Hilaire Belloc, the poet tells us:

For every time she shouted ‘Fire!’
They only answered ‘Little Liar!’

It is unlikely that any of us would act in the way Matilda acted. However, all of us are, at times, tempted not to tell the truth.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Or to elaborate the truth and exaggerate.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Or to tell a white lie to get ourselves out of trouble.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Or maybe we sidle away from the truth to stop ourselves getting into trouble.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Or maybe the dog really did eat your homework this time!

All of us have a concept of truth and lies; hopefully, our consciences will guide us into truth.

Help us to tell the truth sensitively and truthfully,
Recognizing that without truth,
The world would be a worse place to live.
Help us to tell the truth today.

Publication date: July 2018   (Vol.20 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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