When lying is good
As a youth, I was taught to never lie and at some point in my life (probably on my mission), I read an account of an individual who’s sole goal in life was to be known as an honest and trustworthy man. He wanted it on his tombstone. And of course he wanted to live his life in a manner that would make that designation true. I accepted that as a valiant goal and promised myself that I would strive to do the same. I promised myself that I would never lie. I’m one that believes that some things can easily be black and white while other issues remain in the “gray” area. I consider(ed?) lying to be very black and white.
The other day I was listening to my current book in the Tales of Alvin Maker, and a character started talking about different types of lying. The types of lies or liars ranged from the “good” liar to the professional/evil liar.
The “good” liar is one who lies in order to accomplish good things such as the mother who tells a less attractive daughter that she is pretty. Or perhaps a father who protects his family by telling them he is a paper salesman when in reality he is an agent for the government.
The evil or professional liar is one who lies in order to degrade others or to accomplish truly evil things.
Between these two extremes are the casual (socially acceptable) lies and white lies that make life easier. Probably the most common lie in our society is the “I’m fine.”
“Hey, how are you?”
“Oh fine. You?”
In my book, the character is able to see through lies. Not just see through lies, but she also knows the thoughts and feelings of any individual. She’s a “torch” and can see the “heartfire” of other individuals (it is a fantasy novel after all). So when she knows someone is lying, she also knows why they are lying and their true intentions (even if the person doesn’t know their true intentions). So she has some interesting perceptions and indicates that there are some lies that are good. It all depends on the intent of the person behind the lie.
So is some lying acceptable? I’ve always been one to always tell the truth even when it’s socially not really correct. When someone asks how they did in a play, I tell them what I really think. I may leave out some details, but I try to never lie. Is that wrong? Should I be telling people that they are great singers when they aren’t just so I can later see them on American Idol (at the beginning of the season — bad singers).
Is it ok to lie to spare someone’s feelings? Is it really a lie when you tell someone you are fine even when you are not? Is it a lie when you tell your less attractive daughter that she is just as pretty as the next girl.
I’ve always taken the approach that a lie is a lie no matter what the purpose. So what say ye?