Let us suppose the case of a Non-Resident Indian who has an estate in India under the management of an agent. He wishes to know how much it produces, and if he could trust his agent perfectly, he would simply write and ask him for the required information.
But, as he fears that the agent might, for dishonest purposes, give a false account of the productiveness of the estate, he finds it necessary to undertake a long and expensive journey to India in order to get at the truth. Falsehood is the common instrument of commercial dishonesty on a small and a large scale. The dishonest shopkeeper cheats his customer by telling him lies about the quality and quantity of his goods. The dishonest man of business, by making false statements of accounts, embezzles large sums of money, ruins a great business firm and reduces many of the shareholders to destitution. One form of lying, called forgery, is so dangerous in commerce that not many years ago it was punished by death. The evils of falsehood are, however, not confined to commercial crime.
It is lying that defends so many criminals of all kinds against detection. If all witnesses spoke the truth, no crimes would remain undetected, and owing to the certainty of detection and punishment, hardly any crimes would be committed. The evil results of lying are seen in their largest proportions in international relations. It often happens that two great nations are plunged into all the horrors of war, because one nation cannot trust the statements and promises of the other. Thus falsehood produces immense evils and causes mutual distrust between man and man and between nation and nation.
This being the case, there can be no doubt about the paramount importance of the duty of truthfulness. It is equally certain that, looking merely to his own interests, it is expedient for each man to speak the truth. Lying may be successful for a short space of time, but truth is sure to prevail in the end. A liar may by an act of dishonesty successfully cheat his employers or the public once or twice, but he is almost sure to be detected at last. Even when his lying is kept within such bounds as not to expose him to the law, it nevertheless is prejudicial to his success in life. The old story of the shepherd boy who cried “wolf” when there was no wolf, illustrates how any one who makes a practice of lying is at last disbelieved even when he speaks the truth.
Thus, any one who indulges in falsehood, comes to be recognised as a perfectly untrustworthy man. No one will give him honourable employment or be willing to have dealings with him. On the contrary, the man who has established such a reputation for truthfulness that his word is known to be his bond, is universally respected, and may expect to be in trusted with the highest and most responsible office that he is willing to undertake.