Warning: This post is rated PG-13. Parents are advised to act as moral police if kids happen to read this post.
Honesty, a view not commonly held and even less commonly practiced, is truly the best policy for everyone (and not just for some, nor just for some of the time) and under essentially all circumstances, but does that stop us from doing it. I sometimes tell white lies in certain situations…errr…more so to get out of a situation! “I can’t join you for the movie as I already have some plans” (in my living room watching my favorite movie all by myself) or “I am sick and can’t come to work” (random vacation from work is always fun). And there have been few times when someone’s lie has saved me of embarrassment – no one wants a direct rejection in a dating world!
Is anything fundamentally “wrong” about this? I don’t think so. It’s easy to make an excuse to avoid an unwanted dinner invitation we really don’t want to go or have another significant commitment to keep, rather than telling the truth which makes us nervous to say in the first place.
Oh c’mon!! You do it too. Remember:
- How you whisper I am not here when your partner answers the phone…
- How you can candidly tell your lady the universal lie when she does look fat in that black lace dress.
- No matter the receding hair line and pot-belly, you ego-boost your man by telling him how he looks nothing less than Tom Cruise.
- How you embellish your resume and cover gaps in employment just in order to “get ahead”
- How you get out of a boring date (every movie shows it!!)
- In magazines and newspaper articles, people’s identities are changed to protect the innocent or guilty. (Though I understand why it is morally mandatory to lie about people’s identities in these cases. In fact, if they don’t, they would have been betraying the trust of all those people who share their experiences. So lying can in fact enhance trust!)
Ah, now you nod your head!! Everyone has lied and everyone has dealt with liars.
Lying [needlessly] exists in many of our daily transactions. In our world of ever-shifting values, we lie (no matter the degree of lie) even when there is a “truthful” alternative available. Let’s see, there are lies we tell ourselves (self-deception), lies we tell others to keep face, and then there are the consequences, positive or negative, for sometimes telling the truth. Can lying be defined precisely enough? We’re fabulously equipped to do this; it may well explain a good part of how we function.
Lying, as it is often conducted in society, often lacks the moral basis of those few case where it can be justified, what we sheepishly call “White Lies” – we all engage in at one time or another and how harmful they actually can be.
Ah, then there are the “noble lies” that government officials insist are necessary from time to time to protect the public and safeguard social harmony. It seems that our leaders are convinced that the general public simply cannot handle the truth and that they know best. Few of you would have heard the worldwide rumour known as “Climate gate” whereby substantial evidence has been uncovered indicating that scientists knowingly manipulated data and withheld evidence that did not support the theory of “global warming”. In both the cases, these kinds of deceptive practices tear at the fabric of our society and ultimately result in increased suspicion and further division. Is withholding information any better than lying?
The standard of honesty needs to be raised in this country and it can only be done through individuals. It is our choice to allow and accept little white lies as normal behaviour. In an age where honesty seems to be treated like a smelly sock, something we all do but rarely think about.
There is no adequate solution to the problem of lying and we should rule out deception wherever honest alternatives exist, and become much more adept at thinking up honest ways to deal with problems. However if we must, we should know whether we intend our statement to mislead. Easier said than done, right?!!
When it’s all words, walking the walk is the same as talking the talk. In a society where lying is the custom, it is not beneficial to stop lying completely in my view. Neither perfect honesty nor total deceit is an evolutionary stable strategy. But is this not useful to survival? Survival itself, of course, has already answered this question. Now that doesn’t make lying the best strategy for success and it certainly doesn’t make it right.
So, is it possible to hurt people by using the truth vindictively? Should we ask questions to which we don’t want an honest answer? Are we putting others in a situation where they are expected to lie? What about implications – those crafty, slippery statements which mean two things, each of which can be denied. They can be false and true at the same time. Wrong? Half-wrong?
My personal goal is to be sufficiently (Dis)honest so as not to be at a competitive disadvantage, and yet, err on the side of honesty wherever there is room to do so.