Telling a lie is when an individual tells something which he/she knows is not the truth but intentionally maintains it as the whole truth. There are several types of lies, bad faith lies-lying to oneself, big lies, bluffing, emergency lies, lying to children and white lies among others.
An emergency lie is an intentional lie to prevent harm on the third party. For example, when a person is looking for another to cause bodily harm, then one can lie about the whereabouts of the third party. An emergency lie is temporary, and the truth can always be told later. On the other hand, a white lie is a minor lie which is harmless but beneficial. White lies are half truths where one avoids questions so as to achieve a greater good.
A lie may be discovered or undiscovered, but the consequences may vary from one case to another. Once a lie is discovered the integrity of the liar is lowered and causes a change in behavior. The lie may also continue and be an entangled web of lies in the long run.
Historically, philosophers such as Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas condemned lying, but other philosophers supported lies which were intended to achieve good. Thus, when is the right time to tell a lie?
Telling the truth or a lie is a matter of personal honesty. The truth depending on the intention can build or break a relationship. A white lie a few times, is good for creating healthy interpersonal relationships. However, the fundamental foundations of relationships are built on absolute truth and trust in each other.
One can tell a lie when the truth may cause pain or insult to a person. There are lies that prevent people from feeling bad about them, for example, ‘I like your dress,’ when in the real sense the dress looks horrible. Personal opinions about how someone looks or what they are wearing often do not contribute to relationships. The truth in this circumstance can be hurtful; hence, one is not obligated to tell the whole truth if they will hurt someone’s feelings in the process.
Children’s innocence and imagination need to be protected, therefore, white lies such as the existence of Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy help to activate a child’s imagination and give them joy. Other small pleasantries like ‘am ok thanks’ when one is indeed not fine at all are white lies, which help to make people relaxed.
Breaking sad news or disappointing news to someone may be difficult, for example, the death of a loved one may require one to tell a lie until one is able to bear the news. Compliments which are exaggerated, for example, ‘this is the best meal I’ve ever had,’ are good and harmless in that they help people to get along well. Thus, a white lie is usually told to protect others, and hard lies are told to protect oneself.
During grief and difficult times, people who are grieved may not be good company, and are better left alone to deal with the problem, though; it would feel unloving to tell him/her that they are better left alone. Hence, one should be careful when telling the truth so that they do not look as if they are putting their feelings before other people’s feelings.
In some instances, people say yes when they mean no or say it is okay when it is not. This happens when one does not want to upset another, so they pretend to enjoy what the other person is doing, for example, watching a movie, a topic of discussion and food. Most people are afraid that the truth will hurt others especially, parents, siblings colleagues and friends.
Lies are also told to avoid conflict between people, for example, when talking on the phone to someone they may not be able to understand so a white lie can be told to avoid a conflict. When the two people meet later the whole issue can be resolved.
When someone does not want to be rejected or attacked by his friends and relatives they can lie to be accepted. In the bible, there are times when lying brought good, for example, the Hebrew midwives lied to the Pharaoh resulting in God’s blessing on them(Exodus 1:15-21). Rahab also lied to protect the spies from Israel, however, the bible does not praise these lies even they gave good results.
During the times when the Nazi occupied Holland a woman named Corrie ten Boom hid Jews in her home to protect them from the Nazis. When the soldiers asked her where the Jewish men were hiding she lied to protect them from death. In this case, she lied to protect the loss of human life. Lies can be told in desperate and dangerous situations so as to prevent an evil from occurring. These are the few circumstances when telling a lie might be the right thing to do.
The bible may make an account of the times when lies were used to give positive results but it does not make it a right thing to do. People should learn to hold the truth firmly and allow the other person to experience the circumstances of the truth. The other person will learn to bear with the truth without blaming others for their feelings.
Most people tell lies in order to avoid hurting or annoying the other person, but this is only part of the problem. Dealing with the response of the other person to the truth is also a problem, for example, when one tells someone that the food was not well cooked, they get hurt and that leaves one feeling terrible. Uncaring responses to the truth can cause one to feel lonely and dejected. Therefore, most people are afraid of the uncaring response and loneliness after telling the truth. However, when one lies they still feel uncared for, lonely and depressed because of ignoring their feelings.
Truthfulness and honesty are extremely important in society so that relationships can last for long. Without trust in a relationship, the quality of the relationship will be weakened. Therefore, telling a lie has never been better than telling the truth. No matter how hurtful the truth may be one has the right to be told the truth. For example, if someone is suffering from a serious disease the family should be told the truth even if it is hurtful.
To tell the truth one has to gather a lot of courage to bear the response. By avoiding a person’s anger and hurt it does not substitute to love. When one tries to avoid the anger and hurt of others they create strains in their relationship, which can ruin the relationship.
A person’s integrity is more important than any pain, conflict or loneliness that the truth may cause. It is better to lose a person than to lose one’s integrity. Withholding the truth to protect one from conflict and loneliness makes one to blame and judge themselves later. Hence, a lie leads to misery, loss and judgment.