Comparison between "Owing Money" and "Telling lies"

When you bought something and the bill came, you had to pay it or there was an immediate problem.
There were only two alternatives: you took care of your debts, or you were a thief.
Some people would literally take their own lives if they couldn’t honor their debts.
Today, many people don't fear the same kind of personal responsibility about paying debts promptly.

There are many situations in which it’s painful to tell the truth. It’s painful in just the same way that paying a big, fat bill is painful.

We even use the same words to talk about paying debts and telling the truth.

We talk about somebody’s word being “like money in the bank.” We talk about being “held accountable”

If you’ve done something that you’re not really proud of, and you’re called to account for it, what does that feel like? How do you handle it? What are your options when you’ve got to explain something that makes you uncomfortable? It’s a bit like that moment of decision when the credit card bill comes every month. If you want to pay off the whole balance, there may be some pain and sacrifice involved. You may have to grit your teeth. You know your life will be simpler in the long run, but it’s going to hurt a little right now to pay off the new golf clubs, or the new computer, or the sixty-foot yacht. I don’t actually know if you can put a yacht on a credit card, but I’ve certainly known people who would if they could.

It’s easier to float the truth of your finances off onto a little imaginary plastic flying carpet and sail it into the mailbox. Of course, it’s more like a boomerang that’s going to come around and hit you in the back of the head someday.

Let me give you some good advice about avoiding a “bankrupt character.” Pay your ethical debts. Keep your integrity in the black. Face ugly realities with the truth as soon as they appear. When you feel that temptation to hedge, resist it immediately. Don’t treat it casually, treat it like a grease fire in the kitchen that you’ve got to put out before it burns your house down or fills the whole place up with so much smoke that you can’t see where you’re going anymore. Because that’s exactly what will happen when your ethical capital runs out: you just won’t be able to see where you’re going anymore.

Being untruthful is like buying on credit: they’re both addictive.
At first, they are both so easy, they leave you wanting more.
Any addictive behavior offers a simple, short-term escape from a problem, but that escape becomes more and more complicated as time goes on.
Lying can get extremely complicated. You’ve got to have an outstanding memory to be a good liar. You always have to create more lies that are consistent with the one you told in the first place.
Shakespeare had it right all along: “What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

Different kind of lies

If somebody asks me, “How are you today?” I’m supposed to say, “Well, to be honest with you, I have a sore finger, last night I had a headache, and I’ve got to admit that my foot hurts a little…”?

No, that’s not what I mean. In fact, I think there are many times when some flexibility with the whole truth and nothing but the truth is called for.
Outright lying, however–planned lying, lying with an ulterior motive, lying for personal gain–is definitely something to be avoided.

So I want to make a clear distinction between what I call foolish lying, and lying that is downright evil and poisonous to the character.

Boasting, bombast, blarney, braggadocio–these are all the same thing. They’re always floating around in the atmosphere and they can affect you at any time, like catching a cold. They’re mostly harmless, unless you start building your relationships around them.

All of this is childish trash talk, and it’s usually spontaneous. It comes from succumbing to a moment of social pressure, and it probably won’t hurt with such casual acquaintances. But here’s a word of warning: don’t try to build long-term, meaningful relationships with half-truths. They simply don’t provide a very good foundation.

In any case, this kind of bragging and blarney should be distinguished from what I consider real lying. Real lying isn’t like putting bills on the credit card; real lying is like theft. In my opinion, a key element in this kind of real lying is the presence of planning and premeditation.

If a supervisor in a corporation steals one of his subordinate’s ideas and submits that idea to the CEO as his own, that’s lying. And that kind of lying is theft. It’s not only theft of the subordinate’s idea, it’s stealing from the CEO, too–it’s stealing the CEO’s sense of reality.

It’s been my experience that those who engage in serious lying and unethical behavior get caught one way or the other. Usually, the people who are being deceived awaken from the illusions that have been foisted upon them. But even if this never happens, the criminal–and I don’t think that’s too strong a word–has to invest so much of himself into the illusion that his own sense of reality is eroded. By trying to delude other people, you end up losing your own sense of reality.

All of it–small-time lying and big-time deceit–comes from fear. Somebody is afraid the truth about themselves isn’t good enough, so they depart from the truth. Somebody fears they can’t really come up with ideas of their own, so they steal somebody else’s ideas. Or they fear their company isn’t really going to succeed, so they come up with a way to inflate the share prices. It’s really cowardice.

Courage is fearing the right thing at the right time, and in the right way.
Fear the temptation to misrepresent who you are, or what you've done, or intend to do.
Fear the lack of trust you may elicit from others.
Trust who you really are.
Trust your ability to earn the respect of others.
Pay whatever price the truth costs.
Pay that bill immediately, because in the long run, it’s a real bargain.


When you're in a leadership position, either as the head of a business, or as the head of a family, honesty and integrity are not as important as money or shelter or a telephone. Honesty and integrity are infinitely more important than any of those things.
They are about as important as having air and food and water.

People want to believe in their leaders. If you them reasons to trust you, they're not going to look for reasons to think otherwise. They will just be as perceptive about your positive quality as they are about the negative ones.

When you're in a leadership position, you have the choice of how you will be seen, but you will be seen, one way or the other.

Once a parent has lost moral authority, it is very very difficult to regain it.
Many people keep pictures on their desk. Why they should be there: to reminds us of what's at stakes when we make decision that determines character.

"Those who do, can; those who can't, teach."
You really can't teach integrity unless also live with integrity.
Shakespeare: "Every man has his fault, and honesty is his".

Praise is one of the world's most effective teaching and leadership tool.
Criticism and blame, even if deserved, got counter productive.
We can call it diplomacy, or psychology, or just plain flattery; but it often brings out the best in people.

So deformed honesty can even be better in that end.


What does those qualities mean to yourself ? (Honesty, Integrity)

Cognitive dissonance: can't dare to look in the mirror anymore.
Trying to live with two conflictive images of himself in his head. And the strain is simply using up all his energy.
He knows he's living a lie.
A real split between what you're telling the world, and what you know is the real truth about yourself.

You can have all the material things in the world, but if you've lost self-respect for yourself, what have you really got ?

The only way to ever attain success and enjoy it, is to achieve it honestly, and with pride in what you've done.