General Question

sakura's avatar

When is it ok to lie?

Asked by sakura (8267points) July 25th, 2009

So I asked a question – what makes you angry? And during the thread a discussion started about lying; one person believing it was totally unacceptable at all times and there is no reason at all to lie and a few others feeling that in some circumstances a lie is the only option. So have you told any lies? Can you justify them? Are there any occassions where a lie (yours or someone elses) has really made a mess of your life? Or is there a lie out there that has saved your bacon and meant that you have had a better life because of it? Just curious as it was getting to be quite a discussion and felt the question needed to be asked !

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43 Answers

nebule's avatar

To protect someone – I will not be telling my son that his Dad did not care about him enough to be around for him…I’m not sure what I will tell him… but if it is going to protect him it’s going to have to be a lie. He will find out the truth when he is ready…

jbfletcherfan's avatar

I think a lie that protects someone’s feelings is okay.

gailcalled's avatar

If I had Anne Frank and her family hidden in a secret room, i would lie to the Gestapo.

avalmez's avatar

when the impact of telling a lie is morally correct as compared to the impact of not telling the lie.

Deepness's avatar

A lie told to create peace between two parties is not a lie.

sakura's avatar

@Deepness to create peace through a lie may lead to a bigger war later? (playing devils advocate here)

Zendo's avatar

When the truth would get you tossed into jail.

Deepness's avatar

@Zendo But if the truth got you tossed into jail and the truth was you unjustifiably murdered someone, then wouldn’t you deserve jail?

Deepness's avatar

@sakura Then we tell a bigger lie to avoid a bigger war and the cycle of lying continues to keep anyone from getting hurt. They are good lies.

Zendo's avatar

@Deepness No one deserves jail. Who are you, or anyone else to judge others? Have you ever been in jail?

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

It starts out as a little white lie but that’s just the beginning. It can grow so much larger in scale then you ever expected. Then you’re stuck following through with it, which may lead to even more lies so that the first lie’s story still adds up. At what point does enough become enough?

AstroChuck's avatar

When you go to bed, silly.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@Zendo Criminals deserve jail.

Zendo's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic That’s where you are wrong…and go along blindly like the rest of the sheeple.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Have I ever lied? Of course I have. Do I try to avoid lying now, whenever possible? Absolutely. I might lie a little to spare someone’s feelings. Like if they want to know if they look horrible in an outfit I’m not going to say, “Yes, yes you do.” I might instead say something like, “Not horrible, but I think something else would be more flattering.” So other than for things like that, I don’t think lying is okay.

@Zendo People don’t deserve to go to jail? While I’m a big believer in rehabilitation programs – which should be looked into before and after sending someone to jail – if someone is a repeat offender, they most definitely do deserve to go to jail.

dalepetrie's avatar

I think @avalmez hit it on the head, but let me expand. I was also in a discussion about whether or not you would return money if a store gave you too much change, and almost everyone was “oh, ALWAYS” and I was one of the few who said it would depend, and this led to a discussion of honesty. The conclusion I drew was that integrity (which is NOT the same thing as honesty) is more important to me. Integrity is a strict adherence to one’s moral code, and my moral code put simply is “do the RIGHT thing”. Some times the RIGHT thing is not the HONEST thing. If I’m dishonest, I am so intentionally and it serves a specific purpose. I gave an example of how I allowed a store’s utter incompetence and dishonesty lead to a situation where I received something very expensive at no cost. I did not correct their error basically because I felt if this was their level of customer service, then they need to start having a few product attrition issues, because nothing wakes a company in America up to it’s own shortcomings than the loss of the almighty dollar. I did not feel guilty about it because they ran me through the absolute ringer up through that point, skipped no opportunity to fleece me and then even though I way overpaid for something, I did not get the correspondingly awesome customer service (and I WILL pay more to shop at a store that provides excellent service…you get what you pay for). As I didn’t get what I paid for, and this mistake made it more equitable to me in the long run, AND it essentially provided them with a lesson they desperately needed, I lied by omission, and to me, that action had more integrity overall than it would have if I’d just let them continue their awful practices without exacting a price from them. Overall, I thought it was the RIGHT thing to do, and it had the most INTEGRITY, but it was not HONEST.

And certainly, as I pointed out in this other thread as well, sometimes a lie (or avoidance of the truth) can serve to protect someone’s feelings….some times telling the truth causes more problems than it solves. Consider if someone’s a real prick. And you know they will always be a real prick. You have two options, you can go along in life and let them be a prick and just kind of do the jerk off sign behind their back, pretty much give them as much regard as they earn. Or you can tell them, “you’re a prick”. If you do the later, you’re being more honest. But the prick is just going to become an uberprick to you after that, he’ll achieve heretofore unknown levels of prickosity, and will defend his prickishness by being an insufferable prick, all the while denying his prickitude. If a person is not open to hearing the truth about himself, then marginalizing their influence is a better option than confronting them him with the truth.

Another example. It would be ‘honest’ to go to the police every time I learned that someone used marijuana. And though I don’t use it myself, never have, I believe its prohibition is an unjust law, and I support anyone’s right to break it. My moral code is to do whatever is right for you, as long as you don’t hurt anyone other than yourself. So I’m not a fan of rules against self harm, if someone wants to do something to themselves, it’s a personal choice…if you want to interfere with my rights, then it should be a legal issue.

Or to spare someone’s feelings…a woman asks you, “do these jeans make me look fat”, you say “no”, not “no, your ASS makes you look fat,” even if the later is the truth.

Or someone used the Anne Frank example…yeah if the government started another bullshit war in the middle east over oil and started to draft young men say 12 years from now when my son’s 19, damn right I’ll hide him and his friends and lie to the military about their whereabouts.

If lie serves the greater good, I’ll tell one in a second. However, 99.99% of the time, I’m completely honest about everything.

Dog's avatar

Agreeing with @dalepetrie and @gailcalled and just about everyone else here and adding that when a person is asking a question that is none of their business and does not affect them in any way, and the person responds in an outragous fib just to mess with the asker I think that is okay too.

irocktheworld's avatar

I agree with @jbfletcherfan at sometimes it would be ok to lie to somebody to protect
but besides that it’s not good to lie but sometimes the truth isn’t good either but it’s better than lying.

Zendo's avatar

@DrasticDreamer I would then suggest you go spend a few months. You will soon be changing your tune.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@Zendo Why would I do that? Jail isn’t supposed to be enjoyable and I don’t do anything that could land me there in the first place. You’re acting as if jail is supposed to be some kind of ultimate vacation. There’s a reason it’s considered a punishment.

monkeygirl's avatar

I really don’t like lying and telling lies and it’s very bad.
I’d rather hear the truth whether it’s bad or not then lie.

Zendo's avatar

@DrasticDreamer You are the one propagating the use of prison as a punishment, not me. Since you are in favor of this, you should most certainly experience the system so as to adjust its usage to fit the crime.

jamielynn2328's avatar

I am one of those honest to a fault type of gals. I don’t think that lying to protect someone’s feelings is okay. I wouldn’t want anyone lying to me to protect me. That’s crap. I would always rather deal with the truth than live in some sort of sugar coated fantasy land.

A life without Santa may seem less magical, but it is full of substance.

tinyfaery's avatar

I think that lying is human nature. It is a great survival insight, and people lie for so many different reasons. I catch people in lies a lot, but I usually just let it go. I can’t judge why they are lying; it’s probably to protect themselves in some way. But lying that causes someone or something great pain or loss is morally questionable.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Zendo – tell you what, to me prison is an ineffective means of rehabilitation, and as a means of punishment, for some crimes it’s way too harsh, for some crimes its appropriate and for some crimes it’s not severe enough. For me, prison is often a place to put people so they can’t hurt others. I’d be far more lenient than our current system on “victimless crimes”, hell, I’d probably do away with them, I’d be willing to go to bat for the death penalty for people who hurt other people, and everyone in the middle, first try to rehab them, if they can’t be rehabed, put them away so they don’t hurt anyone else. And if you got a problem with that, then don’t commit a crime.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@Zendo Chill out man.
Secondly, how would you prevent convicted criminals from preying on innocents if not for imprisoning them? You seem to have a rather strong opinion on the topic.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Zendo the burden of ensuring jails are just is not on @DrasticDreamer alone – it’s on all of us

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@Zendo Yeah, dude. Did I ever imply that jail is perfect? Far from it. There are many, many things that need to be worked on having to do with our entire judicial system. Do I think they’re completely necessary for certain criminals? Especially repeat offenders? You bet your ass I do.

For someone who is so positive that they’re that horrible, I can only come to the conclusion that you have had first-hand experience on the inside. I don’t know what you went for, but if you shouldn’t have been there or if it was for something truly minor and insignificant – then I’m sorry you had to experience that. But I still think, for more serious criminals, they are completely necessary.

Try actually approaching someone to find out their views on a matter before you jump down their throat. Because, my friend, nothing is ever black and white.

Zendo's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic @Simone_De_Beauvoir @DrasticDreamer I repeat, it is you who need to go to jail to see what conditions are like and how they are often cruel and uusual punishment. Oh dear, that’s unconstitutional, isn’t it.
@dalepetrie You had the best answer I’ve seen so far.

JLeslie's avatar

It’s complex. We tell our kids don’t lie, but then I HOPE we teach them to lie if some stranger comes to the door and asks where our mommy is, and she happens to be out at a neighbors house. So, kids are told to lie, and not to lie, I bet that makes no sense to a young child.

I can’t think of a reason to lie to my spouse, that I think is destructive or just inherently a bad relationship. I guess once in a while I do tell him a little lie if there is nothing I can do about what he is wearing and it is too late to change, things like that, but rarely. Same with close friends, they always look “fabulous” whether they do or don’t, I tell them they look fabulous over email when I can’t even see them :).

Unneccesary lies (outside of, no those jeans don’t make you look fat) are the most annoying and least understandable and makes the receiver of these lies feel like you can’t be trusted for anything.

Um, and we know you use your kids constantly to get out of commitments you should have just said no to in the first place, say and do only what you want, we kind of stop believing you when your kids are always the excuse.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Zendo Do not assume about my knowledge of prisons. I have had extensive education about prison populations, people at risk for jail, their health concerns, their service provisions…in the past 2 weeks, I applied for 10 jobs to work inside jails in the field of public health and advocacy for inmates…please get off your high horse

gailcalled's avatar

What’s with the assumption about jeans and how fat they make you look? I know of NO woman who can’t answer that question herself by looking in a mirror. Do any of you really ask that?

I can always tell when I can’t button the waistband. No need for truth serum for my friends.

JLeslie's avatar

@gailcalled What I do is I see a women who looks overweight to me and I ask my husband, “do I look that fat?”

gailcalled's avatar

@JLeslie: That’s courageous. I hope you pick women who are far heavier than you.

YARNLADY's avatar

The best policy is to never lie. If you think this means you have tell your child his father doesn’t like him, think again. It means that you can tell him that his father couldn’t accept the responsibility of being a parent. You could tell him you and his father couldn’t agree on how to raise him. There are so many different ways of talking about something without lying, if only people would stick to the fact that lying is wrong.

The old “gestapo at the door thing” is so far fetched that it does not really belong in a conversation about lying. Yes, there are extremes that can cause exceptions in every policy, but to claim that the extreme makes the policy wrong does not hold water. If we had to stop and make a risk analysis before making every choice, nothing would ever get done.

A blanket policy of always telling the truth is simple, and when the exception comes along, it just goes to prove the rule. hahaha

JLeslie's avatar

@gailcalled Sometimes I see pictures of myself and I cannot believe how big I look. It seems my mirror is woefully innaccurate. If I ask my husband am I fat he says, “yes” because he thinks everyone should be stick thin. So, I kind of want to know more objectively do my thighs look like that girls thighs?

Side note: My husband tells me I am beautiful all of the time and is very loving, but if I as him directly he tells me, he knows I think his standard is ridiculous.

filmfann's avatar

My company asked a coworker of mine if he thought my manager would carry through his threat to kill several of us if he was fired. My friend lied, and said no.
Had he told the truth, I am convinced he would have been fired, and despite any precautions, he would have tried to kill us.
My friend’s lie saved my life. I am sure of it.
But it pissed me off. I would rather have gone to the mattresses than let this guy keep his job.

JLeslie's avatar

@YARNLADY I agree that honesty is the best policy, I was not trying to imply otherwise.

avalmez's avatar

@YARNLADY yes honesty as the best policy should be the policy practiced. the question doesn’t seem to suggest lying as a policy, but rather what are “the extremes that can cause exceptions in [any] policy”.

DominicX's avatar

It is okay to lie (in my opinion) to spare someone’s feelings, to avoid being harmed (such as lying to a gay-hater about your sexuality to avoid conflict or beating or whatever it ends up being), and when you see it as the best option that doesn’t harm other people. Who gets to decide that lying is “always wrong”? It’s completely individual and depends on the situation.

@YARNLADY yes, the Gestapo example is far-fetched, but that’s the problem with making absolute statements. They are absolute and have no exceptions. Part of the reason why I avoid making absolute statements when I know there are exceptions, even if there are few.

JLeslie's avatar

All I know is I was raised by people who were raised in the Bronx, and I was told not to open the door for strangers, not to tell a stranger I was alone, I was not aloud to wear my name on my cloths when I was very young, not to leave packages out in plain site in my car, to always lock my car doors, etc. I’m not sure if you mean far-fetched like it is an extreme that almost never comes up? Like you are rarely going to have to tell that lie, or if you mean far-fetched few people advise their kids to lie in these situations? My mom was not over-protective or trying to scare us to death, I used to walk to the supermarket alone across the street, when I was 6 years old, she would watch me from the balcony, today she would be arrested. My sister and I used the subway in London alone when we were 11 and 14 respectively on vacation with my parents, I had a curfew of 1:00am when I was 14 if I was with people my mother trusted, I walked to and from school almost a mile at the age of 11.

TheJoker's avatar

When you think you can get away with it….... Nah, only kidding.

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