LIAR, LIAR. ARE YOUR PANTS ON FIRE? Topic #231: When is it ok to lie? To strangers? To friends? To family? To yourself? I tend to be with Kant’s Catgorical Imperative on this one. As noted in that link, ” Immanuel Kant believed that you should evaluate any individual action by what would happen to society at large if everyone did that same action, and you should act in a moral way accordingly.”
To me that means it is rarely good to lie and sadly lying now dominates our culture. When I was a foster parent caring for kids in trouble with the law, I quickly realized that lying was a major problem. I did two things. I never lied–I wouldn’t even tell white lies. I also told my kids, I would trust them to do the same, but once I discovered they had lied, I would pick what I believed when talking to them. Some came to value my honesty, others, of course, hated being found to have lied and therefore given up trust. Often to underscore my efforts to teach honesty I would choose not to believe them, when I knew they were telling the truth. “But I am telling the truth, now.” would be the usual cry and the lesson underscored. The kids were only with us for weeks, maybe a few months at most, but I like to think at least they thought about telling the truth.
So when can one lie? Basically, to save lives, your own and you loved ones included. I understand that the government has to lie for that reason at times and worry that the truth seekers and leakers are endangering our world. Then again, the politicians and media have lied so often and so egregiously, that maybe the leaks are good. I drive many of my friends crazy when I doubt the beliefs they draw from the media. Perhaps Global warming is controllable by humans; perhaps Israel is victimizing the Palestinians, perhaps not; perhaps Obama is a liar, perhaps not; perhaps Wiki links will do so good, perhaps not, perhaps withdrawing from Iraq is good; perhaps not. Sigh.
About lying to ourselves–we all do it, that is why having people in your life who don’t let you get delusional help. The friends I treasure the most are the ones who care enough to let me know when I might want to take a closer look at my ideas. An old saying notes that if one person says you are a donkey, ignore him or her; if a second person says the same, think seriously about the possibility; if a third person says the same, start eating grass, oats, and hay. And Gregory Bateson, one of my gurus, notes that the more people looking at something and honoring each other’s opinions, the nearer all will get to knowing where truth. lies. He put it in terms of maps, “The more views of a territory, the more accurate the map”.
The world would be much improved if hype and lying were eliminated. If I became magically able to do one thing to make the world safer and better, that would be it. Makes me think of the movie Liar, Liar.
STAYING STRONG TIP Become a truth saying, do so by saying what you mean, meaning what you say and not saying it mean. If you in the habit of the little white lie, tell those you love you are trying an experiment for a month ala the movie Liar/Liar, no more little white lies. Scary, but perhaps like the hero in the movie you will discover what really matters and that honesty is one way to get and keep the important things in your life.
So glad, Shabbat is coming and tomorrow we are having lunch after services with new friends. relationships are what matter most and nurturing the new and the old builds strength.
Stay strong, share and care.