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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 June 2006, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Whole truth and nothing but the truth?
Fibs, untruths, deceits, lies. Call them what you will but psychologists reckon we tell at least three of them on an average day.

However, on national Tell the Truth Day, the question is can we suppress the urge to deceive?

Ear generic
A word in your ear... but will it be the truth?

Belfast priest Father John Forsythe says people use "social lubricants" on many occasions.

But he points out that there are more serious lies which can cause damage.

"There are things like a child saying: 'My mummy is not in' to the man at the door.

"But a lot of damage can be created by say... a politician telling a lie. It can put a person's life in danger, telling a lie about their character.

"Lying in business would certainly get you out of business very quickly, if you were found out."

Stephen King, a former Ulster Unionist political advisor, believes there is a a difference between lying and spinning, which he describes as putting the best possible gloss on a situation.

"In political communication I can think of good reasons to tell lies, very good reasons," he said. "The more important thing is to do what is best.

"I can think of situations in the early part of the peace process, for instance, where some meetings were held which I denied ever took place.

"My concern would have been that if the public had known such meetings had taken place then violence might have ensued.

"What is worse, telling a small lie about a meeting that might have taken place or telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth and living with the consequences?

"It's more important do to the greater good. It's a very difficult balance sometimes."

Psychologist Dr Samantha Mann says a lot of people lie on a daily basis often to make themselves look or feel better.

Can we believe a word out of other people's mouths?

She said this did not necessarily lead to more serious lies.

"People who tend to tell lots of lies...like 'you look good in this', or 'you look lovely', tend to be the more popular people, but I don't think that necessarily means they are going to tell the more serious lies," she said.

"Certain jobs, for example, sales people are going to be more likely to lie perhaps or hide the truth.

"Then there are other jobs, like in the medical industry, where nurses may have to lie in order to make someone's injuries look less bad than they are, to make the patient feel at ease, which is obviously a beneficial thing."

Mr King said people in certain jobs also had to show loyalty to their company or political party, and that, perhaps, involved little white lies.

"I think a lot of situations where journalists would call me and ask me about a particular candidate in a particular election.

"I would have to say: 'He's an absolutely great candidate', when I actually thought he was a pretty awful candidate."

So does the greater good justify telling lies?

Father Forsythe believes it depends on the circumstances.

"Very often people tell lies out of fear or embarrassment," he said.

"Jesus would have condemned lies. He would have said: 'The devil is the father of lies.' Yet, when Jesus is dealing with liars, for example, the samaritan woman at the well, who said she hadn't got one husband - Jesus said to her: 'Right, you have six.'

"And when Peter swore black and blue he never knew who Jesus Christ was, Jesus still came back and forgave Peter three times.

"You can see through the reasons, the embarrassment why people tell lies. Very, very serious lies, would always be condemned. They are against the eighth Commandment."


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