How To Tell Lies

September 20, 2011 Alistair McHarg

“All statements on the Internet are true, including this one.” Taz Mopula

Here is a riddle to enjoy. You are walking on a road leading to Basingstoke. You arrive at a junction. The road splits in two. You do not know which road to take. There are two men standing there. You know that one man always lies while the other always tells the truth; but you don’t know which is which. You are only allowed one question to find the right road. You can ask the question to either man.

What question will you ask to find out which is the road leading to Basingstoke?

trust-me-i-lie[Answer] You will ask: Were I to ask the other man which road leads to Basingstoke, what would he say? After he gives you his answer you will take the opposite road from the one he suggests.

[Explanation] If you ask the man who lies, he will lie about what the man who tells the truth would say, so he will tell you the wrong road. If you ask the man who tells the truth, he will tell the truth about what the liar would say; in other words, he will give you the wrong answer, since that is what the liar would do. Either way, this one question will always elicit the true answer, no matter who is asked.

Honesty is essential to recovery, and it’s elusive, especially if you don’t even know you’re lying. When I was at the heights of mania I was persuasive, energetic and passionate enough to talk myself out of one jam after another, despite being obviously in the wrong. Self-deception and lying are at the heart of mental illness, and learning how to be brutally honest, with yourself and others, when you yourself are programmed to deceive, is challenging.

To find the largest number of liars per square foot, visit an AA meeting. My sponsor once told me he used to lie about things that couldn’t possibly benefit him (for example, what he’d had for lunch) just to do it. There was a special needs schoolteacher in one of my groups, lovely woman, who confessed she was such an expert liar that members of her family used to ask her for help when they wanted to deceive effectively. (She was a deception consultant, as it were.)

A favorite example of pathological lying concerns Chico Marx, of the fabulously funny Marx Brothers. Chico was a notorious ladies’ man and one day his wife grew sick of the rumors and snuck into the movie studio to investigate. Sure enough, she spied him kissing a lovely, scantily clad showgirl and began screaming furiously. Responding with characteristic speed and wit, he yelled back, “Honey, it’s not what it looks like, I was just whispering in her mouth!”

When you ask your loved one if they’re telling you the truth, the truth is, they might not even know.

APA Reference
McHarg, A. (2011, September 20). How To Tell Lies, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 17 from

Author: Alistair McHarg

Alison D
September, 21 2011 at 1:16 pm

You know how I feel about lying, Alistair. Great post.

Alistair McHarg
September, 21 2011 at 1:25 pm

Thanks for visiting Alison, and especially for commenting. - Telling the truth is so difficult, even if one is trying to. For starters, there is no single "truth" - at best there is your truth, and you must strip away all the prejudice and misinformation to find it. As you know, that's a chore.

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