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Confessions of an Unsuccessful Liar

When I was seven years old, my parents entertained some friends who had just gotten back from vacationing in Hawaii. Back in those days, it was much more uncommon for people to travel to far away exotic locations, so my parents’ friends were showing off their pictures and souvenirs while my parents ooh-ed and aah-ed.

At one point, I guess our guests must have been running low on interesting things to show, because they pulled out their used plane tickets and boarding passes. I had been in the room for most of the presentation, but for some reason my parents thought that these items would be especially interesting to me and I found myself ooh-ing and aah-ing along with my parents.Confessions of an Unsuccessful Liar article by Charles Marshall

I don’t know who suggested it, but everyone in the room agreed that it would be a fabulous idea for me to take these airplane tickets to school the next day for show and tell. The idea was that I could show the tickets and tell everyone how I got to meet some people who had traveled to Hawaii. Lucky me!

Now, at no point in my life have I ever been accused of being cool, especially not at that age. But even I knew that was a dumb idea and that presenting someone else’s used airplane tickets for show and tell was lame. So I came up with an alternative plan.

The next day when my name was called during show and tell, I marched confidently to the front of the room, produced the tickets, and spun an exciting tale of all my adventures during my amazing trip to Hawaii. And, look! Here were the plane tickets to prove that I really went!

My presentation went along swimmingly for about 3 or 4 minutes, but then, like Icarus, I flew too close to the sun. In my defense, I hadn’t had a lot of experience lying at that point in my life. I was the fourth child in my family and my parents had tons of experience detecting lying kids by the time I came along.

My Amazing-Trip-to-Hawaii story fell apart during the Q&A shortly after my presentation. An astute little girl on the front row raised her hand and said something like, “Did you say the people in Hawaii wore sombreros? That doesn’t sound right.”

Like all liars when confronted, I doubled down. “Sure, they do! You just haven’t heard about that yet because you’ve never been to Hawaii.”

Then another kid raised his hand. “When did you take your trip?”

I thought about it for a moment and realized the importance of producing a plausible reply. My answer needed to be vague and far enough in the past so as to not arouse any suspicion.

“About a couple of weeks ago,” I replied, mentally congratulating myself for my cleverness.

At this point the teacher, whom I imagine had heard just about enough, decided to join in the interrogation. “Honey, I don‘t have you marked down in my book as being absent during that time. Are you sure that‘s when you went?”

Any other kid might’ve reassessed the situation, cut his losses, and taken the way out that the teacher was offering, but again, I was a novice liar, so I dug in deeper. “I’m real sure! Your book is probably wrong. You might want to check it.”

And danged if she didn’t go get it right then and there. She flipped back in the book a couple of weeks and reasserted her position, this time a bit more forcefully.

Shortly after that exchange, I remember slinking back to my desk in shame and disgrace. Obviously, this lying thing was not for me. It was a tough but important lesson that I would carry with me for the rest of my life.

There are some people who are amazingly good at lying. They will lie when it’s just as easy to speak the truth. But the reality is that untruthfulness doesn’t work. People will find you out. Even if they don’t confront you with it, you will be marked and suffer for your deception.

Our entire civilization–all our relationships, both personal and professional–are built on the foundation of integrity. If you want to prosper, if you want to be trusted, if you want to succeed in your relationships, the wise move is to value and guard your integrity.

In short, if you say it, do it. If you declare yourself, stand by your word. If you don’t know, don’t say that you do. If you can’t, then don’t promise that you can. If you mess up, then admit it, and make it right.

And for crying out loud, if you didn’t really take a vacation to Hawaii, don’t stand up in front of the world and say that you did.

© 2021 Charles Marshall. Charles Marshall is a nationally known humorous motivational speaker and author. Visit his Web site or contact him via e-mail at

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4 Responses to Confessions of an Unsuccessful Liar

  1. Mark R Koenig May 12, 2021 at 11:37 AM #

    Great story, and an excellent life lesson for all. If more of the US population would learn and abide by the rules of personal integrity, we would all be so much better off.

    • Charles Marshall May 12, 2021 at 2:25 PM #

      I couldn’t agree more. It seems the standard of integrity has slipped a bit over the years, doesn’t it?

  2. Todd Bonecutter May 13, 2021 at 1:38 PM #

    This is an awesome story. Integrity is something that you posses pretty easily, however, once you sacrifice your integrity, it’s pretty difficult to rebound! It only takes a second to lose it and a lifetime to gain it back. Thanks for sharing Charles.

    • Charles Marshall May 13, 2021 at 2:37 PM #

      Thanks, Todd. You make an excellent point. Integrity is easy to break and takes a lot of work to fix.

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