Social Question

GloPro's avatar

When is it OK to lie?

Asked by GloPro (8213 points ) May 6th, 2014 from iPhone

“I’m sorry, officer, I didn’t realize that was the posted speed limit. I was just following traffic.”

“I’ve never done this before.”

“This is the best tuna casserole!”

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31 Answers

Mimishu1995's avatar

White lie.

jca's avatar

If someone asks you a question that they really don’t need to know the answer, but you want to be diplomatic and not give all the answers to their nosy question, it’s acceptable to “beat around the bush” with your answer.

marinelife's avatar

Not really ever. You can talk around things rather than outright lie.

whitenoise's avatar

When the lie helps people more than it harms them and yourself.

gailcalled's avatar

To this oft-asked question, I continue to use “the Jews in the attic” defense.

jca's avatar

@whitenoise makes a good point. If someone gets a haircut that is unflattering, I wouldn’t say it’s unflattering to them. I might say something like “I liked it when you had the cut you wore last summer” or I might say something what we refer to as “strength-based” like “I like the color” or “that’s a good length” but avoid the negativity.

GloPro's avatar

@gailcalled I tried to find a recent one. I saw 2009 and 2010 threads. The search system isn’t terribly efficient.

ucme's avatar

When you’re asleep in bed.

Crazydawg's avatar

I have never had to lie. dammit just did it again

CWOTUS's avatar

The answer to this question depends on your own criteria.

Whatever you do in life, whether it is to lie or not, to work or not, to love or not (and so on), and how you do those things, are all moral choices. Whether you lie or not is up to you, and whether that is “acceptable” or not is also up to you.

If you’re looking for some “acceptance criteria”, because, after all, it is probably not possible for anyone to be “perfectly honest” (or “perfectly” anything – notwithstanding that some people can seem to be perfect shits):

1. Practicality: Is it possible for you to tell a lie that is a) believable and b) not likely that you’ll forget?

2. Important: If you’re hiding persecuted people in your attic, and you want to help them, then it’s pretty damned important that you lie, isn’t it?

3. Legal consequence: If you’re lying to a police officer about an ongoing investigation, or to Congress (forgetting for the moment that it is apparently always okay for Congress to lie to us), then you may face legal punishment when you’re found out (you’re always found out eventually), that may be more dire than the embarrassment or punishment that you’re trying to avoid.

4. Personal consequence: No, your ass looks totally fine in those jeans.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Agree with Gail. Say you’re at home and a little girl bursts into your house, crying hysterically that some stranger is chasing her. You hide her and the guy comes to your house wanting to know if the kid is there. Is it OK to say, “No.”? Of course it is.

Dutchess_III's avatar

When you lie just to keep from getting in trouble, to avoid taking responsibility for your actions, then that is just cowardice.

Pachy's avatar

“Lie” is one of those words that has taken on a black or white meaning which doesn’t allow for certain situations. I do believe some lies like the one about the husband-wife noted in this article are justifiable.

stanleybmanly's avatar

When it will spare someone’s feelings without harming anyone else.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, I agree with @gailcalled short of lying to save a life, really, even little white lies are best not used.
I’d also add calling into work “sick” when, really, you need a mental health day, same goes for our children and school. These are the only lies I have ever really told.
Sometimes we are set up to lie because truth telling would be judged as bad.

hominid's avatar

Never * (almost). Lying – in the sense that the speaker is consciously aware that they are aware of the truth but choose to say otherwise – is really only justifiable in the rarest of situations (@gailcalled‘s “Jews in the attic”).

The “white lies” and ones designed to “protect feelings” are the most corrosive and create an atmosphere of mistrust. I have known people who lie to keep from hurting peoples’ feelings – or at least that why they think they do it. A white lie only benefits the person lying. When I have been lied to and I find out, I am unable to trust that person. Mistrust and suspicion also have a tendency to accumulate. If x number of people lie to you to “protect your feelings”, then you will be less likely to to trust someone else. The lies have served to build unhealthy (to me and the culture) attitudes towards our fellow humans. Thanks for not “hurting my feelings”.

JLeslie's avatar

It’s ok to lie to protect others and yourself from harm. I was taught to lie when I was alone. If someone asked where my mom was, I was to answer she is coming back in a second, or point to a crowd of women. Alone at home and someone knowck on the door, I tell them, “my mom can’t come to the door right now,” not that she is not home. @gailcalled‘s answer is another example of lying to protect others and yourself from harm. Those things are black and white to me, the right thing to do is lie.

Other lies are more in a grey area, but still considered ok. When someone asks if they look fat, a little lie to help them feel better about themselves might be in order. Although, possibly the truth is better in that situation depending on the players and the circumstance.

I don’t ever like lies that hide something from an SO or friend. I can’t imagine outright lying to my husband about something. I’m sure I must have told a white lie to him or said something that maybe technically is a lie to comfort him, not sure. I can’t think of an example. We all lie more than we think. But, I have never wanted to lie to him about anything important, it’s the opposite. Even when I am embarrased or worried he will be angry about something I did, the first thing I want to do is tell him. Holding something from him feels like a burden. He also tells me even little things that seem unnecessary to share, but we just do.

Thankfully, I almost never have the need to lie.

Coloma's avatar

@JLeslie Yes, in matters of safety or self preservation, I agree.
I am a terrible liar, seriously, I am just not built that way. I could never keep up a facade of deceit, I guess I have a good conscience.
Now my ex husband, he lied with ease even if his stories were full of gaps and inconsistencies he would defend his bullshit to the bitter end.

Nothing is worse or more infuriating, than KNOWING you are being lied to and the lying party refuses to admit their shit.

JLeslie's avatar

@Coloma It is one of the worst. Especially the moments of doubt trying to convince yourself your own mind is wrong. It can make you crazy living with a liar. My husband is a horrible liar. He does all the things that can tip people off. LOL. His whole family sucks at it. My husband doesn’t easily pick up on when people lie, I guess maybe that goes hand in hand with his inability to lie well.

My exboyfriend lied constantly. He had to, he constantly cheated.

One thing I have realized is lying is defined differently by different people. I don’t mean the difference between a white lie and a lie, I mean things like lying when the person really has a good intention, believes themselves they can follow through, and then the whole thing falling apart. It’s more like an unkept promise. I see it in cultures where the men have a a lot of ego/macho. For instance, my FIL told my husband and I that he was going to give us his villa in FL when we got married. Villa in this context is a one story townhouse, very simple, nothing fancy schmancy, but a big deal to me. We were living there, my husband had lived there while he attended school. I never in my wildest dreams would expect the gift of a house. That would be unheard of where I come from. Within a few months his mom starts talking about how she doesn’t think it was a good idea for her husband to promise that and how completely broke they are. We actually were paying their bills in America. But, part of the bills were the mortgage where we lived and the car my husband drove. Eventually the whole thing comes to a head and his father says something like, “it has my son’s name, he has the same name as me.” I say something along the lines of, “that doesn’t meet the standard of giving us the house, it won’t be ours.” I’m sure they perceived me as a money focused bitch, but the truth was, I never in my wildest dreams would expect a house as a gift! I perceive the situation as his father lying and promising something that was not a good idea from the start. I always believe my FIL’s intention, but I don’t always believe it will happen.

My husband’s mother will deal out the silent treatment, and within that she uses it to “not lie.” She doesn’t like to lie, which is good, so what she does is not answer questions and withholds the truth. To her that is not lying. To me it is still lying.

His parents are not constantly dishonest like my lying exboyfriend, but their idea of the truth is different than mine. Thank goodness my husband thinks the same as me. How that happened I don’t know.

Blondesjon's avatar

When the truth just won’t suffice.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

It is okay to lie to those who are lying to you.
It is okay to lie to those who would use your own words against you in a court of law.
It is okay to lie to anyone in authority, especially bosses, teachers, and police.

Dutchess_III's avatar

^^^ I hope you’re joking @Dan_Lyons.

Coloma's avatar

@JLeslie I agree, lying by omission or with holding the truth is still a form of lying. People and their insane rationalizations. haha

GloPro's avatar

When discussing how big the fish you caught was or how close you came to death.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

@stanleybmanly I liker your answer the most.

flutherother's avatar

When I applied to get a day off to attend the funeral of a very close friend and thought it might not be granted I felt, unusually for me, a very severe migraine starting to develop. As it turned out I was able to go to the funeral and the migraine wasn’t required.

rojo's avatar

When you are in Congress. Evidently

josie's avatar

If it is rational to do so.
If a pedophile comes to the door and asks the baby sitter “Are there children here?” the baby sitter would be morally correct in saying no. That is OK.
If it is done to make somebody else make a bad decision in their selfish interest, such as false advertising or fraud, it is immoral and should be illegal.

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