Motives and Lyings


Does confronting your true intentions after the fact constitute lying?

For example, some girl convinces her parents to buy a new laptop. In doing so, she emphasizes all of its features and how they’d be useful for school.

Months after the fact, reflecting on the matter, she discerns that the features weren’t really her true motivation. She really just wanted the brand name for its own sake and couldn’t have cared less about what the laptop did.

This realization comes after the fact, though. In the moment, she didn’t harbor any plans to “play up a point” or to conceal any ulterior motives.

Is this lying? On the one hand, it appears to be lying because those weren’t her true motives. It seems like she got the laptop under false pretenses in that case. Then again, the fact that her true motives become clear to her only months after the fact suggest it isn’t.



Sounds like a spoiled teen who is growing up a bit. That’s a good thing.


I hate to be so frank, but that’s not helpful at all. I’m just trying to gain some insight into Catholic moral teaching.


This example is more about materialism than just plain lying. Materialism causes a persons priorities to be disordered. The girl puts the possession, a laptop, before virtue, such as self-control, or whatever caused her to fool herself.


I’m sorry, but that’s not helpful either. Let’s nor extrapolate and stick to the issue at hand. The concrete question is: Is it lying?


Well, I stand by what I said.
Teens seldom have the moral culpability that adult who have studied their faith do.

If there was no intent to deceive there is no sin.
If there was intention to deceive and get something she really didn’t need…then, yes, sinful.
It’s really not that complicated. We could quote all kinds of theologians.
Is that what you are looking for? Is this for a class?


No, I’m just trying to get a good handle on what constitutes lying. Also, this situation is meant to apply to adults, too. This situation could’ve been about literally anyone. You said, “If there was no intent to deceive there is no sin.” Does being an adult change that? Thanks for your response, by the way.


No, you indicated there was no intent to deceive.


See also:

paragraph 1849 onward


You can’t lie without intent. This isn’t a “Catholic thing”. It is the accepted definition of a lie.

The answer to your question is obviously no. Her actions do not meet the definition of a lie.


A lie is a statement at variance with the mind which intentionally deceives through uttering a falsehood.

The relevant colloquialism here in this case is “lying to oneself.”

It is not a lie in the strict sense of the term. It is just worldliness and vanity which are blinding the intellect and weakening the will.


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