Naga Chokkanathan

Johny, Johny, Telling Lies?

Posted on: December 27, 2014

Meeting is supposed to start at 11 AM. But one person walks in at 11:15 AM with a standard comment, ‘Sorry, traffic was too much!’

That’s obvious. Everyone knows traffic is too much in peak hours. What’s the point in stating the obvious? He should have started earlier knowing this would take longer than usual!

It is a psychological factor that makes us say such answers. ‘Traffic was too much’ is not a lie. No one can deny it or prove it wrong.

Instead, if you say ‘I got delayed because a seven legged monster stopped me on the way’, no one will believe you. If you tell the truth, ‘I overslept’, no one will respect you.

So, tell a lie which can’t be detected. Easy. As long as you are productive on the meeting from 11:15 AM onwards, it shouldn’t matter you told a lie in the beginning.


In Tamil there is a famous poem written many centuries back, ‘தன்னெஞ்சறிவது பொய்யற்க, பொய்த்தபின் தன்னெஞ்சே தன்னைச் சுடும்’.

This loosely translates as, ‘don’t tell a lie if your mind knows it is a lie. If you do so, it will not leave you peacefully!’

When I read it in school, I felt it is a realistic poem. I could imagine someone telling a lie and then feeling bad about it.

But, what is a lie? Or rather, “how much” is a lie?

For example, assume your boss asks you to write a report by 5 PM. He asks you around 4 PM, ‘how is it going?’

Oops. You forgot all about it!

So, you give a response, ‘It is almost completed, I just need few more minutes to organize it and send it!’

Immediately, you jump to work, spend next 60 minutes completing the report. Boss is happy. You are also happy.

But the statement you made at 4 PM, ‘It is almost completed’… is it a lie?

Technically speaking, it is a lie, because “0%” can’t be called “almost completed”.

But, you did submit the report before 5 PM. So does it really matter you told a lie at 4 PM?

This is where it becomes very difficult to say what is a lie and what is not. Many times I feel the result matters, whatever we do or say before that shouldn’t be considered a lie.

What if the result doesn’t happen as expected?

Then the entire blame falls on that person. I am ready to take that risk and that’s why I am telling a lie, do you have any problem?

To put this in different words, lying and then making sure that doesn’t have an impact: does it cancel out the lie?

Someone who takes this risk every day (many do!) should have lots and lots of discipline (and luck). They need to wake up at the right time so that the lies become irrelevant with results.

Kinley’s recent TVC talks about this interesting topic. A daughter tells a lie to her father and then calls him to tell the truth. It seems the Tamil poem I quoted above works fine for her.

God bless her, and few kind souls who still think telling a lie is wrong, even if the final result makes it irrelevant.


1 Response to "Johny, Johny, Telling Lies?"

You are right, Sir. The ‘means’ is as much important as the ‘end’.

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