If you tell an elderly lady you like her new hairdo when you really don't, is that lying?

If someone asks how you're doing and you say great when you're really feeling so-so, is that lying?

Some institutions of higher learning insist their students abide by an honor code that forbids them to lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do. And lying is the ninth no-no in the Bible's 10 Commandments where it says "thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor."

And yet, lying is as common as breathing for some of us. We do it without even thinking about it.

Sometimes to protect ourselves.

Sometimes to protect others.

But we do it just the same.

The challenge

So here's a challenge: See if you can go an entire day without lying.

Sounds easy enough if you're a regular person with a job, a spouse, a family, a group of good friends, a couple of close neighbors and a membership in a parents or homeowners organization.

But listen closely to yourself.

Did you find yourself hinting to your kids that if they made better grades the family might take a vacation you really can't afford?

Perhaps you promised your spouse you'd get around to cleaning up the garage last weekend and somehow got too busy watching sports to get it done?

Maybe somebody cut in line in front of you at the convenience store, and instead of telling them what you really thought, you simply said, "No problem."

Or did you tell your boss that big report was almost done, when in fact you haven't even started on it.

No harm, no foul, right?

Daily patter

Perhaps somewhere during the day you promised to call somebody back and didn't, on purpose.

Or you told someone you don't like that his e-mail never showed up. Or told somebody you like that her proposal was fine, when you knew you'd have to rewrite it.

These exercises, of course, bring lying down to ground level. We're not talking about big lies, like cheating on your wife or stealing money from the company. Those are high crimes.

We're talking about those itty-bitty white lies that come out of our mouths without even a morsel of remorse. As if it's all in a day's work. Which it is.

Truth is, most of us would be biting our tongues all day if we followed the "no lie" rule to the nth degree.

Lying is part of our daily patter. It's the way we navigate around the uncomfortable and comfort those who don't necessarily deserve the harsh realities of truth.

Don't believe it? Ask your kids what happened at school today. When they answer, "nothing," you'll know they're growing up to be just like you.