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When Is It Okay to Lie?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Morals' started by SalixIncendium, Jul 27, 2018.

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  1. SalixIncendium

    SalixIncendium सच्चिदानन्द
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    I'm sure we've all heard the phrase, "Honesty is the best policy." But is it in all circumstances?

    Any of you who were parents and celebrate Christmas have probably told their child that Santa Claus exists (maybe I should have put that behind a spoiler in case some of you here still believe). Some would classify this as a 'little white lie,' but technically it's still a lie, nonetheless.

    If you find out that your friend's spouse or SO is having an affair behind your friend's back, but you don't say anything for fear of being responsible for destroying their relationship or family if they have children, that would be lying by omission.

    Is it okay to lie because it will make someone happy? When it's done to protect another's feelings? When it's done to protect yourself?

    Under what conditions is lying acceptable? Why?
     
  2. Vee

    Vee Active Member
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    I don't find lying acceptable and I hate people lying to me, whatever their "good reasons" might be. It is true though that the truth can be too harsh sometimes and in that case I find it better to either not say anything or try to find a softer way to address the issue, that will be less hard for the other person if possible.
    I get really mad when people lie to me, so lying to others is out of the question.
     
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  3. SalixIncendium

    SalixIncendium सच्चिदानन्द
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    You bring up a very good point. I don't think anyone really enjoys being lied to, which begs the question, if one thinks it's acceptable to lie in certain circumstances, do they not consider when lying the possibility of harm grief it may bring upon another? Or do they simply not care?
     
  4. sun rise

    sun rise "Let there be peace and love among all"
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    There's a classic trap for men which illustrates the question. This includes questions like "Do you like my new hair cut?" "Does this dress make me look fat?" and so forth. The honest answer "it's ugly", "yes it makes you look as fat as you really are" is literally how you might feel but of course every man knows or should know that saying it will cause pain and distress.

    But I don't think one has to, as it were, punch someone in the gut with such comments.

    I also suspect that the vast majority of women would take "it looks fine" and "no the dress does not make you look fat" as a typical male response avoiding the question with a placating answer.

    I think there's a way to be both tactful and honest.
     
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  5. RabbiO

    RabbiO הרב יונה בן זכריה

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    So, if I understand you correctly, if you were living in a Nazi occupied country during World War 2 and you were sheltering a Jewish child left in your care and a Nazi officer knocked on your front door and asked if you knew where any Jews were in hiding, you'd smile and say, "Funny you should ask. I've got a Jewish child living in my basement. Should I ask him to come up or do you just want to go down and get him?"

    In this scenario of course I'm assuming you not to be a JW since members were not exactly loved by the Nazis either
     
  6. SalixIncendium

    SalixIncendium सच्चिदानन्द
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    Perhaps I'm beginning to learn why I'm no longer married and remain single...
     
  7. Vee

    Vee Active Member
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    I think people sometimes tell what for them are little, innocent lies, because it's the easiest answer or they're just trying to please someone. It's not that they don't care, but they don't see the bigger picture. If the person they lied to finds out, they might not trust them again even if they lie was told with good intentions.
    Personally if I know someone lied to me about something, I'll be wondering what else they lied about.
     
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  8. sun rise

    sun rise "Let there be peace and love among all"
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    There are answers other than the binary choice which preserve literal honesty but allow the questioner to draw the wrong conclusion - in other words misleading answers.
     
  9. Subduction Zone

    Subduction Zone Veteran Member
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    I can see that lying may be the best policy when someone is trying to harm someone else. A person asking for information that would harm others has lost the right, at least morally, to expect others to tell him the truth. Your scenario raises another possibility. What if your friend sold drugs and the police were looking for him. You know where he is. What is your answer if police ask about his location? In this case the best thing to do is to decline to talk to them. That would not have worked in Nazi Germany, but it is the rule in most western countries. If one lies to the police one can get into trouble. It is much harder for them to legally demand information from you. Unless they suspect a person of a crime that person need not answer questions.

    The third possibility, simply not answering questions if possible or not passing on information is often the best solution in my opinion. Right now my father is in a care facility due to a head injury that has caused him to spiral ever downwards. A year ago my mother passed and there was a discussion between my brothers and sister about whether or not to tell Dad. I could not see it doing any good since he at that time could not even follow a conversation. At worst he would only be severely depressed and at best he would not understand. My older brother went ahead and told him, I did not try to stop him since I saw that as his right. Luckily he did not appear to understand at all. It did not register at all that day, though it could have on one of his 'better" days.
     
  10. Nakosis

    Nakosis crystal soldier
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    When the truth is of no benefit to the person your are lying to and you know that the person would only use the truth to harm/cause harm to yourself or someone else. Also when the truth would cause unnecessary harm to someone you'd rather not cause harm to.

    Some folks are just ******** and don't deserve the truth.

    Doesn't really bother me if someone lies to me. If something is important enough, I'll find out some other way.
     
  11. Evangelicalhumanist

    Evangelicalhumanist "Truth" isn't a thing...
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    I might have come at the question from a slightly different viewpoint, and wonder what I would say to Grandma when the medical team gives the rest of the family the bad news. Is it really necessary to tell her she'll be dead in weeks? Or is life with hope not preferable to "The Truth?"

    Sorry, RabbiO, my point is, I think, quite like yours -- the world is a complicated place, and while truth is often good, it sometimes is not so good. For myself, I often have to ask myself what my motive is when I have such interchanges with people. If my motive is good and caring, that's about the best I can do.
     
  12. Tony Bristow-Stagg

    Tony Bristow-Stagg Ocean Immersion
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    Giving the Truth but is a way is appears it is not telling the whole Truth, that is just enough to suit the capacity of the hearer, is an art and not a lie. This is the best approach in all circumstances.

    Gods Messengers are very good at this.

    Peace be upon you and all.
     
  13. Deeje

    Deeje Avid Bible Student
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    The Bible puts it this way.... “Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves."

    A sheep among wolves has little power of its own to protect itself against being attacked. It must therefore rely on its shepherd to protect it against predators like wolves, who often hunt in packs and cooperate together to feed all the members of their clan.

    Lying is never a good thing and anyone who has been lied to (even with good intentions) knows how betrayed they feel when the truth is revealed.

    When Jesus was asked questions that he did not want to answer, he simply remained silent.

    Nazi Germany was mentioned by @RabbiO , so even in court under oath, circumstances arose in totalitarian countries, such as under Hitler’s rule, where JW's were faced with two evil alternative courses. One course was to tell everything they knew and incriminate and expose their brothers to persecution and punishment and also bring sentence upon themselves....

    The other course was to refuse to answer questions while on the witness stand and be held in contempt of court. In similar circumstances today it is up to the individual to choose whether he wants to answer or not. Refusal means punishment. He can choose to stay silent and go to prison, or speak and multiply his punishment or place his brothers in danger.

    He has no choice about lying, but he does on refusing to answer, remembering that he must pay the penalty that Caesar imposes, which may be years of imprisonment. A Christian will not lie under oath, and therefore those in Nazi Germany had to suffer the consequences of living where there was no justice, where it was a crime to be a Christian. Jesus said we could expect such treatment at the hands of satan's minions. Many in our brotherhood are still suffering under such regimes.
     
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  14. osgart

    osgart Nothing my eye, Something for sure

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    Honesty is as deserves. The truth to tell is the one merited to say. The truth not to tell is the stuff you should keep private when the audience none deserves its telling.

    Holding your peace about a truth does not require a lie. Lies are meant to harm.

    Forced at gunpoint, i might tell an untruth to protect the innocent.
     
  15. Nowhere Man

    Nowhere Man Bompu Zen Man with a little bit of Bushido.

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    I tend to think of Jim Carrey's Liar Liar. I suppose excessive overt honesty may prove detrimental in some respects in light of human nature.
     
  16. oldbadger

    oldbadger Skanky Old Mongrel!

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    Ask any diplomat this question, and they'll need to tell you a lie.

    I'm a bit more worried by Fake News, False Accounting, Perversion of Justice, Propaganda and Criminal Deceptions.

    The person who self-righteously rushes to expose such situations should go straight to some kind of purgatory. :)

    Imagine doctors being bound to tell folks the precise truth about their illnesses.
    Imagine having to tell a robber where your wallet is.

    It might be easier to list when lying is unacceptable.
    Is the use of a face-cream to make a 50yr old look like 30 yrs a lie? :)
     
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  17. SalixIncendium

    SalixIncendium सच्चिदानन्द
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    Personally, I would much prefer a doctor is brutally honest with me about my illness. What would be the benefit of a lie or even a half-truth in this circumstance?

    Robbery by definition larceny or theft accomplished by means of fear or force, so if a robber intended to assault you in the absence of your admission of the location of the wallet, and given the limited number of possibilities, I'm not sure if there would be any point in lying.
     
  18. SalixIncendium

    SalixIncendium सच्चिदानन्द
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    If the child was sitting in a chair in the basement and not crouched in a closet or alcove or something, would he technically be hiding?

    Since the Nazi officer neglected impeccability in his word with the phrasing of the question, I technically would not be lying if I answered, "No."
     
  19. oldbadger

    oldbadger Skanky Old Mongrel!

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    OK...... fair enough.

    Many years ago I took a close interest in 'lying' for work reasons.

    It probably isn't relevant or appropriate for this thread but the subject of 'Reasons why people lie' can be quite interesting. I just snatched a couple of examples from the long and deep subject matter, that's all. :)
     
  20. oldbadger

    oldbadger Skanky Old Mongrel!

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    I forgot to mention the obvious question in my earlier post...........

    So you do accept that everybody tells lies....... yes?
    It's just a matter of how folks judge such lies. Most lies do seem to have some supporters, strange as that may seem.
     
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