Is speaking a half-truth the same as lying? This question has constantly plagued me and the answer has proven to be forever elusive. I believe that the desire to speak the truth is inherent in human beings. As children we learn what is considered appropriate behavior and what is not. Even as babies and toddlers we are either rewarded or frowned upon as we try new things. For example, picking up a toy and playing with it is often encouraged, but putting it in the mouth, throwing it or breaking it is often frowned upon. As humans, we want to exert our independence. In doing so, we test the boundaries of tolerance from those around us. So, consequence does not automatically translate to a lesson learned. For every action, there is a natural consequence and an unnatural consequence. The natural consequence is designed by nature. For example, when we touch a hot surface it burns us. When putting a toy that has a sharp edge into our mouths, it may cut us. The consequence in both these examples are the experience of pain, which I term as a "natural" consequence. I strongly believe that this is one of the best teachers. We quickly learn from it and in most cases avoid repeating the action. What I term as unnatural consequence is the one bequeathed to us from other individuals around us who observe our actions and express their feelings about it. When the child puts the toy in the mouth, the parent frowns or indicates to the child in some way that this action should not be repeated. This is a little complex. On the part of the parent, this may appear as a natural consequence. Experience has taught them that this is not safe and they "naturally" want to protect the one they love, from this undesired consequence. So, one could say that unnatural consequence are those that are conferred upon us from others who have perhaps gone through the experience prior to us. Why all this talk about consequence? What has this got to do with the topic at hand? I repeat; humans are born to speak the truth; experience, pleasant or unpleasant leads to adjustments. Even in those moments when a lie is spoken or truth is hidden, the individual experiences a sense of guilt. This is the premise behind the lie detector! Pathological liars may ultimately able to disregard this voice of dissent and may even be able to fool the lie detector. Here are some examples to illustrate the point. Let's say I come home late from work one day. My spouse is displeased and is unwilling to accept my explanation that the bus broke down. The next time I am late, I may either call her in advance to let her know that I would be late or take the chance and show up late with an explanation. If the consequence of my action does not change and I am still given the cold treatment, this could result in any number of consequences. Perhaps, I stop caring about this and ignore my spouses chastisement and continue to speak the truth; perhaps I buy her a gift or flowers each time I get back late claiming that took the additional time or perhaps I start to innovate and come up with creative excuses! The first of these requires a strong commitment to speaking the truth, no matter what. The second one is the sly solution where you hide the true reason for being late without actually blatantly lying. This would become blatant lying if you get someone else (perhaps your admin) to buy the gift or use the third option and blatantly lie. Over time, this pattern may be repeated with other situations and the improvisation continues. Gradually there is no trust and the relationship deteriorates! On the other hand when we let the individual learn from natural consequences and reinforce that with our own experiences instead of adding salt to the wounds by adding additional unnatural consequences, the individual is encouraged to share more and builds a strong sense for speaking the truth. Let's say a child is careless and spills coffee on the carpet and some on her/him self. The child is already suffering some pain. The first thing is to console them and lessen the pain. The next thing is to ask the child to help clean up. More than likely the stain will not completely disappear. Use this as a teaching moment to ask the child what could have been done to prevent the mishap. The child will always be reminded of this when they see the stain. They know the amount of effort that parents put in to clean the. House, for that activity takes away from the time the child can perhaps play with her parents. Isn't this consequence enough? Do we have to yell and scream how this stain is a permanent one and will cost 3 months worth of salary to replace? It is certainly not a bad idea to share the cost of these things. But for that there is a different time. Not now, when the child is in physical and mental pain. Sometimes we have to pretend to trust a person even when we don't! There are some minor infractions with no major consequence except embarrassment, perhaps based on the norms created by society. In order to save face, a person may chose to avoid the truth. It is perfectly ok to let that person get away. Another great example of this, I observed at my child's piano lesson. When the teacher asked if he had practiced his piano, he responded that he had practiced that particular song about 15 minutes everyday. She asked how many times a day and he said 6. Obviously this didn't seem right, so instead of calling him a liar, she said, "perhaps you didn't read the music quite right". This sent a clear message to my son without a confrontation or losing face! Occasionally, there may be a major issue with long-term impact that also falls into this category. Let's say you catch your child smoking for the first time. You may want to pretend you did not see him. Later you strike up a conversation and say you were surprised to see a young kid smoking. You may want to say he was about the same age as your child. You then state the harmful effects of smoking and perhaps share a story or two quoting examples from your childhood. You also talk about peer pressure and some of the things you yourself may have taken to avoid it. You end the conversation by saying I hope you don't smoke and never start. Set the expectations and then watch him closely in the future. This approach sets expectations and avoids a direct conversation allowing the child to quit gracefully. If you catch her smoking a second time, you do confront the child and again provide help as needed. Remember though that nothing can beat love when it comes to discipline. To understand what I mean, you would have to read my blog on love. I am still not sure if speaking half-truth or hiding truth is right or wrong. But I do know this, every time I do it, it kills me inside and I have to be born again each time this happens. Over time, I rationalize it and time is always a panacea to these wounds. I hope to build up the courage some day, meanwhile, help me keep myself honest.