• Mon, Aug 18 2008

Lying – Is It Ever Acceptable To Lie?

This morning I read this piece by Robynne Boyd, on How To Catch A Liar – AOL Health. In it she gives examples such as a friend is lying about purchasing a new house, saying it’s to save money, when really the house is more expensive. Who cares if a friend lies about a home purchase – it is their business. I think it’s best to be straight in the first place, but how much honesty are we owed by the people in our lives?

The article got me to thinking about lying. Lying can be such a destructive force. In the past, when I’ve found out that I was lied to, well I felt horrible – stupid, even. There is one time when I was dating my beau, back when we were teens, and I suspect that he may have cheated on me, but I will never ask if he did. It would hurt too much to know for sure. This event, the part that I do know about, it was what broke us up back then. He is no longer 17 years old – it has no bearing on our lives now.

Is it ever okay to lie? In my opinion, yes, sometimes it is okay to lie. If I’m walking with a friend and my friend falls and then asks, “Do you think anyone saw me?” I’m going to say, “Oh, no, just me. Don’t worry.” What would be the point of additional embarrassment?

I have a friend whose husband has a gambling addiction and he regularly gambles away their rent and food money. She is heartsick a large part of the time and unsure what to do to help her young family. In their case, I think it’s important to get to the truth, although, in the case of an addict, truth may be pretty elusive.

I have another friend whose Grandpa died recently. Her Grandparents were married for more than 60 years and for 58 of those years, they were very happy. A couple of years ago, the Grandpa told the Grandma about a mistake he made 40 years ago. The Grandma was aware of part of the mistake, but her husband’s admission, she said it brought all that pain and betrayal back and made their life pretty hellish for some time. I won’t go into details because this is a private situation between my friend’s grandparents, an extremely painful experience for them. My friend told me that her Grandma felt it was cruel of her Grandpa to tell his secret. He took his burden, his mistake and handed it off to her to live with.

I’ve heard people say or write that they are “brutally honest.” They admit this with pride, as if this is their gift and they are honor-bound to share it. I think that brutal honesty is just an excuse to be rude, to share something that is better kept to yourself. I will admit that I am not perfect, sometimes I don’t handle things well, but I am never brutally honest. This woman’s Grandpa, he was a wonderful Grandpa, but his honesty was brutal in this situation. He laid this big nasty bomb at wife’s feet and then the rest of the family watched in horror as it exploded over and over.

This Grandpa’s cancer, evil-killer that it was, brought them back together, strengthened the bond between husband and wife once again. My friend, she told me that she had done her best to reassure her Grandma that the family members didn’t hold onto those 2 bad years. It was the grandparent’s thing and although it was horrible to see them battle, the family knew that the years they spent in love and devotion, they over-powered and out-numbered the bad time.

How important is it to bring a lie to light? I’m not an advocate of lying for the hell of it, or if it is going to lead to someone getting hurt, but sometimes the truth, it’s not the way to go. In the case of K’s Grandpa, it was his screw-up, he should have kept it to himself. It would have been kinder.

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  • http://www.marriagecanwait.wordpress.com Bill Thompson

    In some cases lying becomes an exercise in utilitarianism. The moral worth of the truth is measured by the overall damage (or good) it will cause in the world. Tough choice to make.

  • http://www.giannirossetti.com/ Gianni

    I have some friends who constantly lie when they have nothing interesting to say.
    I avoid lying. Sometimes it´s very tempting. I cant judge the people who lies to get their game going.

  • LP

    I’m not a fan of lying. I can be pretty honest, but I do try to consider the feelings of other people and don’t ever (okay, usually) want to hurt someone on purpose. I do think that the type of thing you mention about your friend’s grandparents should’ve been kept a secret. The Gpa didn’t think about how it would hurt his wife…he just wanted to unload his burden. That’s not cool.
    I don’t understand though why people lie about the little things and why the liar thinks that the person they are lying to doesn’t know that they’re lying. This happens to me at work all of the time, and with a couple of friends…and I always think, “Do they think I’m THAT stupid that I don’t know they’re lying or that I won’t find out the truth later?”

  • http://www.askewtoyou.blogspot.com Michelle Smith

    Thanks for responding, Bill, Gianni, and LP. It’s interesting to see the viewpoint of others and in the case of lying, most people do agree it’s not a good thing.

    I had a step-cousin who used to lie a lot. She would be doing something simple, like calling a business to ask a question and she would make up this big scenrio that had absolutely no truth in it, then she’d give me a wink. It was nuts. At the time, I was 16 and she was in her early 20s. Not the best influence, but it did make me realize that I did not want to be anything like her.