Telling a lie is generally thought to be 'wrong', but what about when you want to protect someone you care about? Is lying ever okay? Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net
Right from when we were children, we were told that it was naughty and wrong to lie. In the world of childhood, perhaps we told fibs about taking extra lollies from the jar that was not meant to be touched, or that we did not hit our siblings. Telling a lie simply was a great and often effective way to avoid getting into trouble when we were children.
However, it is not even questionable that adults also lie from time to time.
On the whole, lying is frowned upon as being immoral, and perhaps an indication of dishonesty.
However, I can’t say for certain, but I am sure everybody has lied at some time or another. Usually, the negatives anticipated from speaking the truth outweighed the benefits (or avoidance of negatives) from telling a fib. We may feel that lying is okay if it doesn’t break a personal moral, and in ourselves, we believe the matter which we were dishonest about certainly did not constitute our value system.
A classic example is if your overweight friend asks you if she looks fat in an outfit. Even though you love your friend, and believe she is beautiful as she is, if you said ‘no’ and the clothing was significantly to small, then you may have very well prevented her from feeling self-conscious and hurting her feelings.
Sometimes, we tell lies to protect them from truths which may hurt them, or facts that they may not be ready to hear yet. When my mother was suffering from breast cancer (she is in remission now, and I thank God), she did not tell me to protect me from the anguish I would have felt. (I found out when visiting her one day and she had lost her hair).
Sometimes we can tell a lie if someone has unrealistic expectations. A boss may demand to know whether we covered what we truly considered to be unnecessary detail and to avoid getting into trouble when you need that job, you can nod convincingly!
Still at other times, if somebody asks us if a person does not like them, and suppose you know this unfortunately is true, lying can serve as self-protection.
We may tell a lie to avoid a friend or family member getting into trouble. We may consider their transgression forgiveable and don’t want them to go through painful legal proceedings. It doesn’t mean we like what they did. Again it comes down to protecting another.
We may lie to avoid being nagged and pestered about something we already know we should or should not do. However our parents and partners will ask us “have you made that appointment yet?” Sometimes we lie to get even our loved ones of our back.
Sometimes adults also lie to children to protect them. For example, when a very young child loses a parent through death, it may be acceptable to explain to them that “mummy or daddy” is on holidays.
When examining the reasons for telling lies in the examples above, the act itself is not necessarily condoned, but the motives are surprisingly pure – to protect largely and to avoid confrontation (protecting oneself!) When we tell lies to avoid responsibility we are capable of carrying or due to dishonest intentions, this is not an acceptable reason tell a lie. This doesn’t mean you are a bad person, but it is not a positive reason for telling a fib.