Lying by Sam Harris

How Lying by Sam Harris changed my life. 

A Little Story

Once upon a time, there was a ten-year-old warrior. Every day, after the bell rang at school, he biked straight back to his house. However, one day, a friend of his asked if he wanted to play some video games at his house. The young warrior didn’t have his own videogames, so he was convinced rapidly. They went together to the friend’s house and played on his PlayStation for hours. It was extremely fun, but he needed to go back home. When the warrior arrived back home, his parents were waiting. His parents asked him where he had been and he lied, “I stayed at school to do some homework with the other kids”. His parents were convinced, and the young warrior felt very smart because he had tricked his parents.

Some hours later, his mom stormed into his bedroom yelling, “We know that you went to your friend’s house and played video games there. Why did you lie to us?” The warrior was surprised and wondered how his mom had discovered it. Nevertheless, a harsh punishment followed which seemed unreasonable for the young warrior. A week after the conflict, his mom came to him and said, “You know darling, going to your friend without saying, wasn’t the reason we punished you. It was because you lied to us.” After that moment, the young warrior tried to never lie again, but those so-called “white lies” kept showing up. That was because he was convinced that there was nothing wrong with them. Until he read the book Lying by Sam Harris.

A White Lie


Lies about small matters, which are “harmless” to others and are often seen as a form of politeness.

3 reasons why you shouldn’t lie

Most people are convinced that, in many cases, lying is a bad thing. However, they don’t dare to say that lying is always a bad thing. I’m convinced that you should never lie. Only life or death situations may be an exception. If you’re not convinced, here are some reasons why you shouldn’t lie:

  1. When you lie, you deny people access to reality. This may damage them in ways you don’t know beforehand. Like Sam Harris says in his book, lying determines the choices they can make and because of that it’s an assault on their autonomy.


  1. Once people discover that you lied, they will have difficulties believing that you’re an honest person. Even if it is just a small lie. It will inevitably keep lingering in their conscious or subconscious.


  1. When you lie, you need to keep track of your lies because inconsistency is the nr.1 reason lies get discovered. Keeping track of your lies requires a tremendous amount of effort. Let’s be lazy and let the truth keep track of what we’ve said.

How to stop lying

This might be obvious, just stop lying, but it’s more complicated than you might think. Lying often has become a habit, and like all bad habits, a clear strategy for quitting is needed. Here are some steps:

  1. Acknowledge that lying is bad. Keep the three reasons listed above in your mind. If you’re not convinced that lying is bad, sorry I can’t help you.


  1. Notice when you lie. Sometimes I realize I’m lying at that moment. Other times I realize it later. When you notice that you lied, write down your lie on paper. Make for yourself the rule that you have to keep these written lies with you all the time. You can only get rid of them when you’ve corrected these lies to the person you lied to. In my coat, I have a paper with two lies I’ve told. I haven’t been able to correct them because I’ve not seen the person I lied to for a while. So be careful with your lies, your coat may get heavy.


  1. Correct When you feel the urge to lie, don’t do it. When it’s too late and the lie has been told, try to correct yourself and be honest about the lie. Don’t lie about a lie, that would be the beginning of an endless feedback loop.


  1. Learn to say, “I don’t feel like talking about that” when you want to keep your privacy while avoiding telling a lie. White lies often feel like an easy fix in those situations. Yes, they are easy. No, they are not a fix.

Another Little Story to End

When I was younger, I was really shy and silent. This probably was because I’m introverted, and because of this I’ve limited energy for social interactions. Looking back now, I think there was also another reason, but first I need to tell you something.

There are some lies that I’m specifically allergic to. I noticed that people could make very blunt statements and act as if they know 100% sure they’re right. In reality, they’re often not 100% sure, but they hope that by coming across as confident, they are more likely to “win” the debate. Jordan Peterson’s books have taught me that debates are not something you win, and the truth is not something you have. No, you’ll get closer to the truth by going into dialogue, and by listening actively to others.

Rule 9: Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.

Now that you know my allergy, I’ll try to explain what the other reason was that I was so quiet. I was convinced that in these debates it was of no use that I said something. I felt that way because I had not already thought through the problem beforehand. Now, however, I’m convinced that’s not required. My thoughts are valuable, even when they are wrong. So, I need to bring them out as long as I am honest about my ignorance. So, these days I try to say more what I think, but without arrogance.

To finish here is a quote for my fellow introverts:

“To be honest, I often feel I have nothing interesting to say,” said the fox. “Being honest is always interesting,” said the horse.

This post gives you more information about the three key values. Honesty is one of them.

Your Turn

Think about the last time you lied. Fix this lie by saying to this person that you lied.

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