Is Honesty Really The Best Policy?

There’s a little boy. His name is Little Jimmy. He’s probably called Little Jimmy because his dad’s name is James.. but that’s not what this story is about. Little Jimmy’s dad is physically abusive towards he and his little sister. Little Jimmy is old enough to understand the things that set his father off. One day Little Jimmy’s little sister is hungry and she climbs onto the counter to look in the cabinets for something to eat. She’s clumsy. As she pulls out a box of Froot Loops, the box falls, bounces off the counter, and onto the floor. Next thing you know, there are Froot Loops all over the kitchen. Little Jimmy hears the commotion and enters the room. He immediately understands what happened. Before he and his sister could do something about it, his father was standing at the opening to the kitchen with hell in his eyes. “Who did this!?” Little Jimmy knows that his little sister did it. Little Jimmy also knows why. Little Jimmy’s father isn’t the type to go making meals for his children. Little Jimmy knows that someone is about to get the worst of their father. Little Jimmy doesn’t want it to be his little sister, even though technically the mess is her fault.. Technically, but not really.. Little Jimmy is considering telling his father that he himself did it. Little Jimmy however has also learned that it’s wrong to lie. What should Little Jimmy do?

Sorry about that. I had to get my Tyler Perry on for a second. This anecdote isn’t about Little Jimmy’s messed up life. This is about the morality of lying. Many with life experience will often agree, sometimes it’s necessary to lie. The problem is that we teach the innocent that lying is wrong rather than explaining the complexity of it. The key here is that lying and telling the truth are not always black and white.

The teaching of many morals is often about control. We teach our children right and wrong so we, and they, don’t have to deal with their mistakes. The same goes for society. We have laws so that we can live in a more comfortable society. However many of these morals aren’t circumstantial. They simply say, don’t do this and don’t do that. For example, the oldest rules we know are the Ten Commandments.. But each one is cut and dry. There are no provisions or amendments based on hearings or trials. However some people still hold true today that these are the laws of the land (at least for other people). Today I’m going to focus on one commandment.. the 9th.. wait, no.. the 5th? I have no idea.. the one that says lying is wrong.

I’m going to put it out there now. Lying is not always wrong. Morality for humanity goes so much deeper than a black and white slate. That’s why our law system is so F’d up.. because it changes all the time and many people are too stubborn to understand the liquidity of it. However, we must simplify things for those who don’t want to liquify their brain at every moral dilemma. I believe the thing that’s more black and white when it comes to morality (especially lying) is the intention. Of course, it’s not always black and white.. but it’s sometimes easier to dissect the intention rather than the act itself sometimes.

For example, every man has been asked by a woman if she looks fat in this dress. Any man who has attempted to give both answers in different scenarios understands that there is only one right answer. That answer is, “Of course not, baby. You look great!” Feel free to substitute baby with the pet name of your choice. Now am I heartless for telling my woman something like that? It depends. If I told her that so she would leave me alone because I want to watch the game, it may seem a bit heartless.. probably wrong. However, if I considered the idea that she wasn’t asking for an opinion, but that she was asking for a bit of confidence, then I’d say I did the right thing. When I tell her how good she looks in that dress, she’s going to go out into the world believing that. Now sure it could go both ways. Maybe she does look a little chubbier in that dress than she would in another one, but you better not call her fat! In this case, you tell her, “No, you look good in that one, but I think you look better in that little fuchsia one with the shoes to match!” OK.. so hypothetical boyfriend is kind of metrosexual.. I like my characters to be interesting..

So the phrase “lying is wrong” needs to be retired. Lying itself has just gotten a bad wrap. The truth is that everybody lies. And with that, everyone has probably told a selfish lie. Selfish lies are aimed at getting oneself out of trouble regardless of the morality of your actions. These are the kinds of lies we’ve all told our parents. Typically we can get them under control when nearing adulthood, but some of us carry them beyond that and use the same lies to get authority, such as the police and the IRS, off of our backs. This is not encouraged and is usually wrong. Consequences don’t usually fade away simply because you’ve juked them with a lie. They often come back harder, and if you can’t lie bigger, then they will catch you and they will kill you. OK, they probably won’t kill you, but don’t lie to responsible authority.. just follow the laws.

Sometimes authority is irresponsible. I would lie to a racist cop to the ends of the earth, because if that cop doesn’t like Mulattos, he’s gonna lock me up if I blink the wrong way. Sometimes your parents are drunken assholes who would beat you senseless because you dropped cereal on the floor even though you didn’t even get a chance to clean it up. Sometimes you want that promotion and your jerk coworker works harder than you so you have to take credit for his work.. Oh, wait a minute. That’s a bad lie. Bad lies you can feel. If you’re not a sociopath or desensitized, bad lies haunt you. Necessary lies can do justice. Bruce Wayne lies. If he didn’t, Batman wouldn’t be able to do his thing.

The other problem with this idea is that intent is effing hard to police. If you tell a lie and people find out that it was a lie, it’s easy to just punish you based on that. It would take a psychological evaluation and a really good lie detector test to determine if your intentions were good or bad when you lied.. and we’re in a recession so people can’t afford to pay for that mess. However, something (depending on what you believe in) knows that you’re a lying bastard rather than a boondock saint. When your life is on fire, make sure you remember all the bad lies you told to avoid trouble. You can be a master at the art of lying, but when the truth wants to be known, you’re only prolonging an inevitable life lesson in the form of a beat-down. Thus, here is my amendment to The Bible’s 3rd commandment.. or is it the 6th? Somebody get me a Bible for Christmas.. Anyway, here it is: “Thou shalt not lie with negative or selfish intent.” Right on..

Trust and Lies

What is trust? Trust is a bond between two entities based on honesty. Lies diminish trust. Do all lies diminish trust? I think given a straight and narrow view on lying, we may allow necessary lies to affect trust in the same manner that bad and selfish lies will affect it. Trust shouldn’t be thought of as straight and narrow either. Sometimes women lie to men to protect their fragile egos. If a man finds out that a woman lies for this purpose, he shouldn’t trust her when it comes to such things.. but this doesn’t automatically make her a cheater. However, the standard view typically equates one lie with all lies. As soon as you find out they lied to you, you say things like, “I don’t even know you anymore! What else could you be lying about!?” That’s an emotional reaction and irrational response. These things are not to be trusted. Trust that if someone lies about something within a certain realm of thinking, they will probably lie about it again. Of course, you never really know. That’s why we lie.. to make sure people don’t know. The moral.. don’t equate the entirety of your trust to a single lie. Measure the lie and figure out how that lie can lead to other lies of the same type or magnitude.

Truth and Lies in black and white

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