When was the last time you told a lie? Honestly, think about it. Perhaps you told a lie without even thinking you were lying, and with no feeling of guilt. It would not be entirely surprising.

Not telling the truth is so ingrained in our national life, and such a popular, everyday expedient for achieving our goals, that it is easier than ever to lie with no conscious sensation of doing it.

Lying is a huge concept, of course, ranging from the mundane to the deeply manipulative. As well as political spin in the “post-truth” era, there is the lying we all do, from “I’ll be there in 10 minutes”, or lying by omission – not saying you won’t be there in 10 minutes – to the people-pleasing gossiping we do every day, insisting to one friend we agree with them, then bitching behind their back to another friend that really they are quite wrong.

We bear false witness. We do it all the time, usually in the belief that we either have no choice or are making things better by doing so.

There are also the sorts of lies which some will say the system encourages. I have just had to pull out of the sale of my flat to a twentysomething who insisted they were a cash buyer. They negotiated a much reduced price on this basis, only for me to open the door a few weeks later to a surveyor from a building society who was arranging their mortgage. Apparently, this happens all the time.

When I expressed shock, both the buyer and my estate agent were nonplussed: “What difference does it make so long as you get the money?”

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