The True Consequences Of Lying

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - October 05, 2005
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All children misbehave. You expect it and you deal with it.

And all children lie. They do it because they’re afraid they’ll be punished. They’re ashamed. They lie about their naughty behavior because it’s hard to tell the truth.

As a parent you understand, but you also understand that if you let them get away with it they will learn the wrong lesson. They’ll think it’s OK to take the easy way out. They’ll think no one will know.

I have been out of the newsroom for a while, but have followed the ongoing drama surrounding Rep. Beverly Harbin. It’s painful to watch, because Harbin is obviously an intelligent woman with something to say.

It’s also obvious that she just doesn’t get it.

When we talk to our kids about being honest, we do it because we want to be able to trust them. Children learn through hard experience that they lose that trust if they don’t come clean.

It is probably true that Harbin went through hard times. Don’t we all have periods in our lives that we would rather forget? Many of us have done things we regret, and we have learned from those experiences. And for the most part we are forgiven for our past transgressions, because everyone knows we are, after all, only human. We are capable of change, and certainly we can prove we’re deserving of redemption.

But by failing to disclose her past mistakes, Harbin has not only embarrassed and betrayed Gov. Linda Lingle, who appointed her to public office, but more importantly she has lost any chance of gaining the trust of her constituency. Any hope she once had of being a positive, powerful instrument for change has been diminished and maybe even permanently damaged.

We try to teach our children that a lie has larger consequences than that one moment of untruth. It hurts people, especially the people we love. And it hurts the liar more than anybody else. A person pegged as a liar will always be questioned, always be doubted.

It is also true that people in certain professions have to try harder to earn and keep the public’s trust.

Journalists fall into that category. So do politicians. Credibility is not a given. It has to be earned.

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